Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 23, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 23, 2020

The latest Flames speculation plus updates on Taylor Hall, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Alex Pietrangelo in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE FLAMES?

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis believes Johnny Gaudreau has likely played his final game with the Calgary Flames, pointing to what he called the winger’s “annual disappearance” during the playoffs. He feels Gaudreau’s style of game doesn’t mesh with post-season hockey as teams collapse their defense and intensity ramps up.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images)

Gaudreau has two years left on his contract. Francis feels it won’t be easy to move him now, citing his playoff performances and his $6.75 million annual average value under a flattened salary cap. He suggested center Sean Monahan would have to be included to sweeten the deal. However, he feels general manager Brad Treliving prefers to keep Monahan and finding another winger to play alongside him.

Waiting another year to move Gaudreau when his limited no-trade clause kicks in will only hamper efforts to deal him. Francis feels now is the time.

Francis also thinks Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund are less likely to move, while Sam Bennett’s rising stock should keep him in Calgary.

Luke Fox feels there’s a financial incentive for contenders to pursue Gaudreau. Once the winger collects his $3.5 million bonus check for 2020-21 from the Flames, an acquiring club could get him for two seasons to a total of $10 million in actual salary. That could be a good deal for teams seeking scoring depth under a flattened salary cap.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Brian Costello suggested Gaudreau could be a difference-maker for clubs trying to reach the playoffs. He listed the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and Columbus Blue Jackets as possible Eastern options. He also noted there’s speculation Gaudreau would prefer signing with an Eastern club when he becomes a UFA in 2022.

Costello said it’s no big secret the Flames would like to pursue Calgary native Taylor Hall via free agency at season’s end. He feels Gaudreau could fetch the Flames a decent return. He also wondered about Monahan’s fate, noting the chemistry between the two forwards isn’t working anymore. He thinks Gaudreau and Monahan will be former Flames by the end of this year.

CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson noted some observes feel the Philadelphia Flyers would love to land Gaudreau, a native of Carneys Point, NJ. “Really? Last we checked, the Flyers have a pretty good thing going,” said Gilbertson.

TSN: Frank Seravalli acknowledged plenty of fingers are being pointed at Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. This postseason proved the Flames are Matthew Tkachuk’s team now, as they sagged without him after the winger was sidelined early in their first-round series against the Dallas Stars. Rather than blow up the roster, however, Seravalli suggests finding a better supporting cast for Tkachuk to take the heat off Gaudreau and Monahan.

Seravalli believes the Flames’ priority should be improving their goaltending. This could be the summer to make a splash. Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and Vegas’ Robin Lehner could become free agents, while Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray could also become available.

The fate of their blueline needs to be addressed. T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic are among those slated for UFA status. Seravalli also wondered about the fate of interim head coach Geoff Ward. If general manager Brad Treliving opts to start fresh, it would be his fifth coaching hire in seven years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It certainly seems likely that Gaudreau could be on the move during the off-season. Despite his postseason struggles, his regular-season production would be attractive to teams seeking scoring punch to reach the playoffs.

The Devils could be the best fit. They have the cap space and need an established winger alongside center Nico Hischier. The Sabres also have cap space but also have Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson at left wing and a greater need for a second-line center.

The Panthers have Jonathan Huberdeau as their first-line left-winger. They could reportedly cut costs in the offseason. The Blue Jackets could use Gaudreau but he and demanding head coach John Tortorella are as different as chalk and cheese.

Treliving could move Monahan but finding a suitable first-line center to replace him would be very difficult. If the Flames GM is interested in pursuing Hall, he’ll want Monahan there as his first-line center.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’S SATURDAY HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall will make finding a stable, winning situation his priority if he hits the open market at season’s end. He feels the 28-year-old Hall would prefer “a winning place to land” over one that could fill up his bank account the most. The winger’s only been in the playoff twice during his 10-year NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t mean Hall won’t be looking for a good contract. He’ll still want to get paid market value or as close to it as possible. Nevertheless, playing for a contender could mean more to him right now.

Speaking of the Coyotes, Elliotte Friedman suggested the future of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be worth following in the off-season. The 29-year-old defenseman has seven years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause. However, Friedman suggests it’ll come down to what ownership and new management wants to do going forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Right now, we don’t know if the Coyotes intend to trade Ekman-Larsson. He has full control over his fate. If he doesn’t want to waive his NMC, that could be the end of it.

However, if ownership makes the case that they’d like to move on without him, it could be a powerful incentive to waive it. Clubs lacking a top-two, left-side defenseman would be interested, but he’d still determine where he’d go.

Friedman also reported plenty of time remains for the St. Louis Blues and team captain Alex Pietrangelo to hammer out a new contract. There are still seven weeks until the UFA market opens on Nov. 1. It’s believed Pietrangelo wants to stay in St. Louis. Last October, Friedman reported the Blues wanted to sign him to a long-term deal below $9 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could affect how much the Blues can afford to invest in Pietrangelo. Nevertheless, the two sides seem keen to get a deal done. I’ll be surprised if he hits the open market in November.










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 – May 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 10, 2020

Latest on the league’s plans for the schedule and the draft, the 50th anniversary of Bobby Orr’s legendary Stanley Cup-winning goal, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont cites Bruins president Cam Neely pointing out the NHL and its TV partners would have the opportunity of trying new camera angles if the schedule resumes without fans in arenas. That would include perhaps mounting some cameras in lower-bowl seats or along the top of the glass that surrounds the boards.

“Even closer to the action, league broadcast executives also have toyed with the idea of embedding cameras directly into the boards, or perhaps mounting them directly behind the boards with lenses shooting the action through small portals drilled into the boards.”

Another option could be mounting small Go-Pro cameras to players’ helmets, though the NHLPA would have to agree to it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a great opportunity to provide fans watching on television with some different angles they otherwise wouldn’t see. It would be a great way to give them the feeling that they’re in the game, especially for those who’ve never attended a live NHL contest. 

 

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas (Photo via NHL.com).

SPORTSNET: Mixed feelings persist among NHL executives over the league’s proposal to stage the 2020 Draft before the resumption of the season. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was diplomatic when questioned about his take. “We’re just going to try to prepare as though it’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s not going to be normal regardless of what it is, so we’re fine with whatever is decided.”

Player agent Allan Walsh, however, said most general managers he’s spoken with aren’t happy with the idea. “I have not talked to one GM who likes it, and I talk to almost all of them.”  Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is among them. “I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season if we do conclude the season over the course of the summer,” he said. Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake, however, indicated he and his staff are “quite comfortable with either scenario.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m against it, and not because I’m some old-school guy who’s against “outside-the-box” thinking. I’m against it because the league higher-ups believe it’s going to draw big TV ratings and generate excitement among sports fans heading toward the restart of the schedule. I doubt it, especially when the most exciting component of the draft – the possibility of a major trade involving established players – probably won’t be permitted.

What will generate fan excitement is training camp and exhibition games taking place leading up to the proposed resumption of the schedule in July. Save the draft for when the season is over.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Today is the 50th anniversary of Bobby Orr’s legendary Stanley Cup-winning goal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the first Stanley Cup Final game I ever saw. I was seven-years-old at the time, and the only reason I got to see it was because it was an afternoon game. That goal was seared into my memory and made me a life-long Bobby Orr fan. He did many amazing things throughout his career and truly changed the game with his style of play, but it’s that goal everyone remembers. It wasn’t the prettiest goal Orr ever scored, but it’s certainly among hockey’s most memorable.

CALGARY SUN:  Flames center Sean Monahan hopes the season resumes this summer. “Everybody is just looking forward to get back with one another and push each other to get to that end goal,” he said. That end goal being, of course, the Stanley Cup. 

THE SCORE: If the league resumes play this summer, Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone will be ready to return from the lower-body injury that sidelined him before the schedule was paused by the pandemic. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang made an unspecified donation intended to provide meals to the Students and Families Food Relief Fund and the Knead Community Cafe in the Pittsburgh area.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Calgary Flames

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Calgary Flames

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 26, 2020

Check out the latest Flames and Capitals speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently examined four of the biggest off-season questions facing the Calgary Flames.

Could Johnny Gaudreau face an uncertain future with the Calgary Flames? (Photo via NHL Images)

Francis believes it may have been clear to management to consider trading Johnny Gaudreau and/or Sean Monahan had they failed to get the Flames into the playoffs this season or beyond the opening round. Assuming the schedule doesn’t resume, Gaudreau and Monahan will get another shot at it next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think the Flames will move Gaudreau and/or Monahan following this season. If the schedule resumes this summer and the Flames struggle again, it will be a justifiable reason not to peddle one or both of their young stars. Nevertheless, those two will feel the pressure to step it up next season. Another disappointing finish in 2020-21 will raise questions over their respective futures in Calgary.

Five of their nine defensemen – Travis Hamonic, TJ Brodie, Michael Stone, Erik Gustafsson, and Derek Forbort – are unrestricted free agents. Keeping Hamonic or Brodie could be the priority, while Calgary-resident Stone could be re-signed at the league minimum as a short-term insurance policy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames are fortunate to have some promising youngsters that can replace those UFA blueliners they don’t re-sign. I can see them keeping Hamonic or Brodie to maintain some experienced stability on the right side of their blueline. I agree with Francis’ take on Stone. Gustafsson and Forbort, meanwhile, were short-term pickups to buoy the Flames’ defense down the stretch and into this postseason

Re-signing Cam Talbot and what form of compensation they’ll get from last summer’s James Neal-for-Milan Lucic are other questions facing the Flames. Talbot resurrected his career in Calgary, but Francis wondered if he might prefer playing where he can get more playing time.

The Flames were supposed to receive a third-round pick in 2020 if Neal scored 21 goals and Lucic ten fewer than Neal. Neal has 19 goals and Lucic eight. If the season isn’t resumed, the Flames could appeal for a ruling from the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Flames are comfortable with David Rittich was their starter, they can afford to part ways with Talbot unless he’s willing to accept the backup role. They can find some suitable replacements for him via the UFA market.

CAPITALS FREE-AGENTS UPDATE

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir recently examined the decisions faced by Washington Capitals managment regarding their unrestricted free agents.

Despite the second-half improvement in goaltender Braden Holtby‘s performance, his days are likely numbered in Washington. The Caps’ limited cap room makes him too expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, recently-acquired winger Ilya Kovalchuk‘s performance over the rest of the schedule and the Capitals cap space will determine whether they can afford him.

A strong finish to the season could earn recently-acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon a contract extension if his asking price is reasonable. Blueliner Radko Gudas appeared the odd-man-out in recent games, which doesn’t bode well for his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with those assessments. With over $71 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, they’ll only have around $10 million to work with if the cap remains at $81.5 million.

Despite his struggles, Holtby will seek a raise over his current $6 million AAV. With Ilya Samsonov their future starter, they have little choice but to part ways with Holtby following this season. Kovalchuk, meanwhile, is reportedly all-but-assured of returning to the Montreal Canadiens on a one-year, bonus-laden deal next season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 26, 2020

Alex Ovechkin continues his march up the goal-scoring leaderboard, the Leafs rebound from an embarrassing defeat on Saturday, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his 43rd goal of the season and the game-winner in a 4-3 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets. Ovechkin now has 701 career goals, sitting seven behind Mark Gartner for seventh place among the all-time goal-scoring leaders. The Capitals (84 points) opened a two-point lead over the Penguins for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Jets (70 points) are tied with the Nashville Predators, but the Preds hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot with three games in hand.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his 43rd goal of the season in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets (Photo via NHL Images).

The Predators, meanwhile got third-period goals by Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson to down the Ottawa Senators 3-2.

After an embarrassing loss to an emergency backup goalie on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leafs captain John Tavares scored twice while Lightning captain Steven Stamkos left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury. The Lightning (85 points) failed to gain ground on the Bruins, while the Leafs (74 points) hold third place in the Atlantic Division.

Mike Hoffman’s third-period goal proved the game-winner as the Florida Panthers squeaked past the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. The Panthers sit two points behind the Leafs in the Atlantic, while the Coyotes (70 points) sit just outside the Western playoff picture.

Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund each scored two goals to lead the Calgary Flames over the Boston Bruins 5-2. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask saw his personal points streak end at 20 games. The Bruins remain atop the league’s overall standings with 90 points, while the Flames (72 points) hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

The Vancouver Canucks edged the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on an overtime goal by Tyler Toffoli. With 74 points, the Canucks move into second place in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.

An overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad lifted the New York Rangers over the New York Islanders 4-3. The Isles hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 77 points. The surging Rangers (72 points) have won four straight and eight of their last 10 games, sitting four behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card berth.

Speaking of the Blue Jackets, they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Minnesota Wild. Mikko Koivu tallied twice for the Wild, who sit three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth. The slumping Jackets have just one victory in their last 10 contests.

The Philadephia Flyers picked up their fourth straight victory and their seventh in his last 10, doubling up the San Jose Sharks 4-2. Kevin Hayes had a three-point performance, including two goals. The Flyers (79 points) hold third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The St. Louis Blues picked up their fifth straight victory with a four-goal third period to nip the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5. Zach Sanford tallied twice for the Blues (84 points), who sit atop the Central Division and Western Conference standings.

Dallas Stars winger Roope Hintz had a goal and two assists in a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the win, the Stars (80 points) move one ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division. The Hurricanes (74 points) sit two points out of the final Eastern wild-card spot.

Sonny Milano scored twice (including the game-winner) in his debut with the Anaheim Ducks in a 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers. New Oilers Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis each had a goal and an assist. The Oilers (74 points) sit third in the Pacific Division. Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm left the game in the second period after suffering an upper-body injury crashing into the corner boards. Before the game, the Oilers announced winger Kailer Yamamoto would miss two-to-three weeks with a sprained ankle.

Cory Schneider made 27 saves for his first win of the season as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Devils center Pavel Zacha collected two assists.