The Blackhawks sign Connor Murphy to a new contract, the Islanders reportedly ink Casey Cizikas to a new deal, Evander Kane puts his San Jose home on the market, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks yesterday signed Connor Murphy to a four-year contract extension. The 28-year-old defenseman will earn an annual average value of $4.4 million through 2025-26.
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy gets a slight pay bump from the $3.85 million AAV of his current deal that expires at the end of this season. He should fill the second-pairing right-side role on the Blackhawks blueline with Seth Jones holding the first-pairing spot on their rebuilt defense corps. He’s also expected to take on more of a leadership role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The term of Cizikas’ new deal seems excessive for a 30-year-old checking line forward but it’s an affordable annual average value. The length of the deal was likely what it took to get Cizikas to accept that annual cap hit.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello still hasn’t officially announced Cizikas’ new deal but it’s the first indication that one of the club’s unrestricted free agents has been signed. The secretive Lamoriello reportedly doesn’t want his rivals to know how much salary-cap space he actually has.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Embattled San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is selling his San Jose home for almost $3.2 million. Kane filed for bankruptcy in January and is going through a messy divorce from his estranged wife Anna, who accused him of gambling on Sharks’ games. Those allegations are under investigation by the NHL.
SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted former NHL forward Patrick Sharp is returning to his roots as a coaching advisor with the University of Vermont’s Men’s Hockey Team. Sharp played for them from 2000 to 2002.
TORONTO SUN: A recent survey named the Maple Leafs’ Carlton the Bear as the NHL’s top mascot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sun greeted this news with derision. “Were the voters four years old?”, they asked, calling the Leafs mascot “bland and uninspiring.”
Recaps of Tuesday’s action, the NHL is reportedly returning to ESPN, plus updates on Jack Eichel, Roman Josi, Nathan MacKinnon, Elias Pettersson and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist and Tristan Jarry made 33 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the New York Rangers 4-2. Before the game, the Penguins announced forward Jared McCann was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. With 31 points, the Pens move one point ahead of the Boston Bruins into third place in the MassMutual East Division.
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz picked up a win in his 1,700th career NHL game as his club edged the Bruins 2-1 on a shootout goal by Anthony Beauvillier. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves and Brock Nelson scored in regulation as the Isles (36 points) got their sixth straight victory to maintain a two-point lead over the second-place Washington Capitals in the East Division. Bruins winger David Pastrnak tallied his 11th goal of the season while struggling teammate Jake DeBrusk was a healthy scratch.
Shootout goals by Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Buffalo Sabres 5-4, extending the latter’s winless skid to eight straight games. The Flyers overcame a 4-2 deficit on third-period goals by Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere. Their comeback began after they pulled starter Carter Hart in favor of backup Brian Elliott. They’re one point behind the fourth-place Bruins. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced captain Jack Eichel is out at least a week with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart gave up three goals on eight shots in the first period. It was the third time this season they’ve pulled the struggling 22-year-old goalie from a game. He is 6-5-3 in 15 starts this season with a bloated 3.61 goals-against average.
Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal (NHL Images).
The Washington Capitals blew a 4-1 lead over the New Jersey Devils but emerged with a 5-4 victory following an overtime goal by Jakub Vrana, who finished the game with two goals. Capitals forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov each collected two assists while Devils center Travis Zajac picked up three helpers.
Jordan Staal scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Carolina Hurricanes nipped the Nashville Predators 3-2. Sebastian Aho scored and collected an assist for the Hurricanes (37 points), who sit one back of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Discover Central Division. Predators captain Roman Josi missed the game as he’s listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators were already missing blueliner Ryan Ellis, who’s also week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Losing their two best defensemen within a week of each other could be the death blow to the Preds’ fading playoff hopes.
Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out 38 shots as his club doubled up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2, handing the latter their seventh loss in their last nine contests. With 36 points, the Panthers sit one point behind the second-place Hurricanes in the Central Division while the Jackets (25 points) are six points behind the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks.
Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves as the Winnipeg Jets held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3, handing the Leafs their third straight defeat. Jets defenseman Neal Pionk picked up three assists. Leafs center Auston Matthews snapped a five-game scoreless drought by tallying twice to become the first player to reach 20 goals this season. Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu left the game with an upper-body injury. With 33 points, the Jets are five points behind the first-place Leafs in the Scotia North Division.
An overtime goal by Blake Coleman gave the Lightning a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Coleman and Tyler Johnson each had a goal and an assist as the Lightning (38 points) maintain a one-point lead for first place in the Central Division.
The Dallas Stars spoiled Blackhawks’ winger Patrick Kane’s 1000th career NHL game with a lopsided 6-1 victory. Stars winger Jason Robertson collected a career-high four assists while captain Jamie Benn picked up his 700th career point. The Stars, however, are 10 points behind the fourth-place Blackhawks.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports sources claimed the NHL and ESPN have reached an agreement on a seven-year to become one of the league’s media partners starting next season. It’s expected ESPN would split the package with another media company, getting exclusive rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028 plus streaming rights for Disney.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: ESPN hasn’t aired live NHL games since 2004 so this is a big deal for the league. The current contract with NBC pays $200 million per year so we can expect the new US broadcasting deal will be worth considerably more. This is also an indication of how much the NHL product has grown and improved in the American sports market over the past decade.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is expected to return to action tonight against the Arizona Coyotes after missing the Avs’ last three games with a head injury.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson is expected to miss at least another week with an upper-body injury. His last game was March 2 against the Jets.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes placed goaltender Darcy Kuemper on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. He’s returning to Arizona for further evaluation after getting hurt during Monday’s game against the Avalanche.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy faced no supplemental discipline for his hit to the head of Lightning blueliner Erik Cernak, who returned to action last night against Detroit.
TSN: Only three players – Edmonton’s Kyle Turris, Nashville’s Erik Haula and San Jose’s Marcus Sorensen – are on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Recaps of Sunday’s action plus the latest on Brandon Carlo, Tom Wilson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: First-period goals by Anders Lee and Brock Nelson 62 seconds apart powered the New York Islanders to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. It was the Isles’ fifth straight victory and the Sabres’ seventh consecutive loss. Nelson scored twice while Jeff Skinner tallied his first of the season for Buffalo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders (34 points) hold a two-point lead over the Washington Capitals for first place in the MassMutual East Division.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).
Alex Ovechkin tallied career goal 714 and Ilya Samsonov made 36 saves as the Capitals downed the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. Before the game, Ovechkin weighed in on teammate Tom Wilson’s seven-game suspension for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo, calling it “a kind of joke.” Wilson will not appeal the suspension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand Ovechkin is sticking up for his teammate but I wonder if he’d feel the same way if, say, Brad Marchand (like Wilson, a skilled player with a history of reckless play) hit one of the Capitals in the same way Wilson did to Carlo.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood turned in a 40-save shutout to blank the Bruins 1-0. Kyle Palmieri tallied the only goal. Speaking of Carlo, he was released from the hospital on Saturday and is listed as week-to-week with a head injury.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 3-0 deficit to down the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3. Four of their goals came on the power play as they extended their points streak to eight games. Yanni Gourde led the way with two goals and two assists. Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy received a match penalty for a dangerous hit to the head of Lightning blueliner Erik Cernak and could face supplemental discipline. The Hawks also played without rearguard Calvin de Haan, who’s ailing from blocking a shot during Friday’s game between the two clubs.
Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes doubled up the Florida Panthers 4-2. Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle played his 1,000th career NHL game. With the win, the Hurricanes (35 points) are one point behind the first-place Lightning in the Discover Central Division and one point ahead of the Panthers.
A three-point performance by Kasperi Kapanen helped the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Rangers 5-1. The Penguins blew the game open with three goals by Kapanen, John Marino and Sidney Crosby within 61 seconds in the second period. Pittsburgh (29 points) moved two points ahead of the Flyers into fourth in the East Division. Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba picked up an assist in his first game since suffering a broken thumb on Feb. 16.
The Nashville Predators nipped the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a shootout goal by Roman Josi. The Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit with three third-period goals to force overtime and the shootout.
A shootout goal by Drake Batherson gave the Ottawa Senators a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames, who dropped their second straight game since firing head coach Geoff Ward.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto was fined $3, 854.17 for tripping Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson during Saturday’s game.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi remains sidelined by an upper-body injury suffered on Jan. 30. He hasn’t practiced in five weeks and there’s no timetable for his return.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers president John Davidson reached out to Barry Beck after the former Rangers captain recently wrote a scathing Facebook post blaming the Rangers, USA Hockey and the NHL for the death of former teammate Mark Pavelich, who passed away last week at age 63.
Beck believes Pavelich’s struggles late in his life were attributable to head trauma suffered during his playing career with the Rangers in the 1980s. He criticized the club and USA Hockey for what he considered their lack of support of Pavelich. He also called the NHL “cowards” for avoiding discussion about the lasting effect of brain and head injuries suffered while playing. Pavelich’s death is still under investigation.
Recaps of Thursday’s action, the league introduces enhanced COVID-19 protocols, two more Flyers are added to the protocol list and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Evgeni Malkin’s game-tying goal late in the third period set the stage for Sidney Crosby’s shootout winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the New York Islanders 4-3. Penguins Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist while teammate Zach Aston-Reese scored in his first game since returning from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Florida Panthers picked up a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning to snap the latter’s six-game winning streak. Alex Wennberg and Aaron Ekblad each tallied a goal and an assist for the Panthers, who were playing without winger Anthony Duclair as he was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. The Lightning played without captain Steven Stamkos, who’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers have 18 points (8-1-2) and sit one point behind the Lightning in the Central Division.
Columbus Blue Jackets center Jack Roslovic (NHL Images).
A four-goal third period rallied the Columbus Blue Jackets from a 4-2 deficit to nip the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5, ending the latter’s three-game win streak. Cam Atkinson scored and collected three assists while Jack Roslovic tallied twice. Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat each had a goal and two assists. The Blackhawks played without Andrew Shaw as he suffered another concussion during Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars. They also learned defenseman Connor Murphy will miss 10-14 days with an injured right hip.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw has a history of head injuries. It may be time for him to consider retirement rather than risk further serious injury by continuing his playing career. Roslovic, meanwhile, has four goals and nine points in eight games since being acquired from the Winnipeg Jets and now centers the Jackets’ top line.
The Nashville Predators ended a three-game losing skid by clipping the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. Dante Fabbro netted the game-winner in the final minute of the third period. Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm missed the game with an undisclosed injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Connor Hellebuyck made 41 saves backstopping the Winnipeg Jets over the Ottawa Senators 5-1, handing the latter their fourth straight defeat. The Senators also lost goalie Matt Murray as he left the game after two periods following a collision with teammate Nikita Zaitsev. More information about his condition could be released later today.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 38 saves for his 40th career shutout to blank the slumping Montreal Canadiens 3-0. Jujhar Khaira, Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie were the goal scorers. The start time for the game was pushed back an hour after Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi was held out of the game-day skate and placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. The game was allowed to proceed following rapid testing of his teammates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have returned to earth after their red-hot start. They’ve dropped three of their last four games and managed just six goals during that period. Opponents have neutralized the Habs’ offense by clogging the neutral zone and outworking them in their own zone. In recent years the Canadiens have started strong only to suffer setbacks during the second quarter of the schedule that leaves them struggling over the remainder of the season. Time will tell if the latest slump is a minor speed bump or the harbinger of yet another collapse.
The Carolina Hurricanes dumped the Dallas Stars 5-3 to hand the latter their four straight loss. Nino Niederreiter broke a 3-3 tie with a breakaway goal early in the third period. Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes. Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera returned to the lineup after spending a week on the COVID-19 protocol list while goalie Anton Khudobin played his first game after being scratched from Sunday’s game for missing Saturday’s practice.
Jacob Markstrom made 33 saves to give the Calgary Flames a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Markstrom and teammates Chris Tanev and Josh Leivo were playing their first game in Vancouver since the former Canucks signed with the Flames last fall. Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano each collected two points for the Flames while the spiraling Canucks suffered their sixth straight defeat.
The Los Angeles Kings picked up their first win in six games by thumping the San Jose Sharks 6-2. Drew Doughty collected three assists for the Kings while Tomas Hertl scored both goals for the Sharks. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced goaltender Devan Dubnyk was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks coach Bob Boughner called out goalie Martin Jones following this game, saying his performance was “not up to our standard.” Jones (5-3-0) has been erratic, playing well in his victories and getting pulled early in each of his defeats this season.
Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 21 saves to shut out the Vegas Golden Knights 1-0. Max Comtois tallied the lone goal as Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (27 saves) suffered his first loss of the season. The Golden Knights played without netminder Robin Lehner, who’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
SPORTSNET: The NHL is adding game-day rapid testing for players, team personnel and on-ice officials as part of its expanded safety protocols in hope of stemming potential COVID-19 outbreaks.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The number of Flyers on the COVID-19 protocol list rose to five as Jakub Voracek and Morgan Frost were added on Thursday. The club’s next scheduled game is Feb. 18, after which they’re slated to travel to Nevada to face the Boston Bruins in an outdoor game at Lake Tahoe.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL could be forced to find a replacement for the Flyers in that game or postpone that contest and shift it to an indoor venue at a later date.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild are cleared to resume team activities today though 12 players remain on the protocol list. They are scheduled to return to action against the Kings on Tuesday.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes fired assistant general manager Steve Sullivan, adding they would not be seeking a replacement for him. Sullivan was interim GM after John Chayka left his role with the club last summer.
CBS SPORTS: A lower-body injury will sideline Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk against the New York Rangers tonight.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery today.
NHL.COM: Willie O’Ree’s number retirement ceremony has been rescheduled to Jan. 18, 2022, to allow for in-person attendance. A trailblazer for players of color, O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018. He’ll become the 12th player in Bruins history to have his number retired.