What Can The Maple Leafs Do to Bolster Their NHL Roster?
Alex Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Steven Stamkos reach new career milestones, the latest injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Warren Foegele scored twice and collected an assist to lead the Carolina Hurricanes over the Washington Capitals 6-4. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his 256th career power-play goal to pass Teemu Selanne for third on the all-time list. Capitals winger Tom Wilson missed the game with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is in striking range of Dave Andreychuk (274) and Brett Hull (265) on the all-time list.
Vegas Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for his 454th career victory in a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Fleury moves into a tie with Curtis Joseph for sixth place on the all-time wins list. Teammate Shea Theodore collected three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury is just four wins behind the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who’s fifth on the all-time list. Both are the wins leaders among active NHL goalies.
A three-goal second period enabled the Tampa Bay Lightning to hold off the Montreal Canadiens 5-4. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos picked up his 800th career point, Victor Hedman collected four assists, and Alex Killorn scored twice. Brendan Gallagher had two helpers for the Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos is third among the Lightning’s all-time points leaders. Martin St. Louis is first with 953 points and Vincent Lecavalier second with 874.
The New York Rangers edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on an overtime goal by Tony DeAngelo, snapping the Leafs six-game win streak. Ryan Strome had a four-point performance and teammate Artemi Panarin collected three assists. Leafs center Auston Matthews scored two goals and set up another. The Rangers played without winger Brendan Lemieux, who’s sidelined 3-4 weeks with a fractured left hand. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced defenseman Jake Muzzin is week-to-week with a broken foot whiile Ilya Mikheyev will miss at least three months following surgery to repair an artery and tendons in his wrist severed during Friday’s game against New Jersey.
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray made 44 saves in a 6-4 win over the Nashville Predators. It was Murray’s first victory since Nov. 9. The Penguins blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust clinched the win with two late goals. Rust had a four-point night and Evgeni Malkin picked up three assists. Predators captain Roman Josi also had three assists while Mikael Granlund tallied twice. Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist returned to action since being sidelined on Nov. 30 by a lower-body injury. The Predators placed winger Colton Sissons on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
Timo Meier tallied a hat trick as the San Jose Sharks halted a four-game losing skid by downing the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1. Sharks forward Melker Karlsson left the game in the first period after taking a slap shot to the head. He received some stitches and it’s hoped the injury isn’t as severe as it seemed.
Jacob Markstrom made a career-high 49 saves as the Vancouver Canucks nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Elias Petterson had two points, including the game-winning goal. Kings captain Anze Kopitar also had a goal and an assist.
Ben Bishop made 41 saves in regulation and overtime backstopping the Dallas Stars over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov scored the only goals in the shootout. The Avalanche have dropped four of their last five games.
The Florida Panthers overcame a 3-1 deficit and held on for a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, handing the latter their fifth straight defeat. Mike Hoffman had a three-point peformance for the Panthers.
IN OTHER NEWS…
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner is out three-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury suffered during Friday’s loss to the Boston Bruins.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (upper body, injured reserve) and Charlie McAvoy (upper body) won’t be available for tonight’s rematch against the Sabres.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers placed Markus Granlund and Brandon Manning on waivers.
CBS SPORTS: The Winnipeg Jets placed goaltender Eric Comrie on waivers.
Big nights for Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, the Stars rally back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Wild, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, and added two assists to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ovechkin moved ahead of Luc Robitaille into 12th spot on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list with his 669th career goal. Nicklas Backstrom collected three helpers and John Carlson scored twice for the Capitals. Auston Matthews had a three-point effort for the Leafs, who also lost defenseman Jake Muzzin to a leg injury following a first-period collision with Capitals winger Tom Wilson.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists as his club crushed the Philadelphia Flyers 7-1. Dominik Kahun and Dominik Simon also each had a goal and two assists. The Penguins welcomes back winger Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Brian Dumoulin off injured reserve.
The Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Minnesota Wild 6-3. Stars winger Alexander Radulov led the way with a hat trick and an assist while Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist. Wild winger Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch.
Nick Bonino tallied a natural hat trick and Pekka Rinne picked up his second straight shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner made 48 saves in defeat while teammate Brent Seabrook was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seabrook wasn’t pleased about it. I’ll have more on his situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
The Boston Bruins extended their winning streak to four games by beating the San Jose Sharks 5-1, handing the latter their third straight loss. David Pastrnak scored to extend his points streak to 10 games while Brad Marchand picked up an assist to extend his points streak to 11 games. Bruins center David Krejci returned to action after a five-game absence, tallying a goal and an assist.
Cam Fowler set a franchise record for most goals by an Anaheim Ducks defenseman in a 7-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Fowler surpassed Scott Niedermayer with his 61st career goal. Carter Rowney scored twice, Josh Mahura collected three assists, and John Gibson made 36 saves for the Ducks. Nikolaj Ehlers had three points in a losing cause. The Jets played without winger Patrik Laine, who’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
The New York Rangers upset the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. Filip Chytil scored the game-winner in his season debut, Ryan Strome had a two-point performance, and goalie Alexandar Georgiev kicked out 29 shots. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and forwards Pat Maroon and Anthony Cirelli left the game with injuries and are considered day-to-day.
Andrei Svechnikov scored twice, including a lacrosse-style goal, as the Carolina Hurricanes edge the Calgary Flames 2-1. Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek made 28 saves for the win. Earlier in the day, Flames winger Tobias Rieder cleared waivers but remained in the lineup.
The Detroit Red Wings snapped an eight-game winless skid by upsetting the Edmonton Oilers 3-1. Dylan Larkin had a two-point outing and netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Head coach Jared Bednar believes the winger will miss some significant time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s two-thirds of the Avalanche’s first line out of the lineup. Landeskog joins Mikko Rantanen (leg injury) on injured reserve. It’ll be a big test for the Avs, who sit atop the Western Conference standings.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils winger Nikita Gusev will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s matchup against the Lightning.
NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Mark Pavelich was deemed unfit to stand trial for an alleged assault of a neighbor in August. The judge suspended the trial, ruling Pavelich “lacks the ability to rationally consult with counsel, is incapable of understanding the proceedings, and is incapable of participating in the defense due to mental illness or deficiency.”
The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, Kyle Turris, Jake Muzzin and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST TSN “INSIDER TRADING”
TSN: Darren Dreger reports there’s a growing sense of optimism that Dustin Byfuglien could return to the Winnipeg Jets. There’s still no guarantee or timeline for the big defenseman’s return. Byfuglien would be a welcome addition to the Jets’ struggling blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets will give Byfuglien the time and space he needs to reach a decision. You can bet they’re hoping his return comes sooner rather than later.
Bob McKenzie believes it’s worth watching Kyle Turris’ situation with the Nashville Predators. The 30-year-old center is earning $6 million annually with five seasons remaining on his contract but he’s also seeing fourth-line minutes. McKenzie doesn’t think it’s any secret general manager David Poile was trying to move Turris this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Turris’ reduced ice time he has four points in six games this season. That puts him on a 54-point pace and could make him attractive to clubs in need of depth at center ice. That hefty cap hit, however, could make Turris difficult to move. Poile doesn’t pick up part of a player’s salary to facilitate a deal but he might have to break with that tradition in this case.
Pierre LeBrun believes the Toronto Maple Leafs could find it challenging to re-sign Jake Muzzin. The 30-year-old defenseman is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
LeBrun said there have been no contract discussions, in part because the Leafs were focused on re-signing their restricted free agents this summer. Blueliners Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci are also slated for UFA status. LeBrun thinks the Leafs want to take some time to evaluate and prioritize those rearguards. They can’t afford to re-sign all three and might not be able to re-sign two of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have over $65.5 million invested in 11 players for 2020-21. Muzzin and Barrie could cost at least a combined $13 million to re-sign. That won’t leave much for the rest of the roster. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas did a good job juggling his limited salary cap space this summer. It’ll be interesting to see if he can pull it off again.
LeBrun and McKenzie reported the struggling Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils will remain patient with their respective head coaches. Speculation arose in recent days over the future of Wild coach Bruce Boudreau and Devils bench boss John Hynes, with false reports yesterday claiming Hynes was fired. Dreger also noted the Dallas Stars have stumbled from the gate but there’s no sense of panic coming from the front office or the coaching staff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hynes could feel the heat much sooner than the others. Expectations were high following the summer’s acquisitions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev, and promising Jack Hughes. Many observers predicted they would be a playoff contender. If they don’t turn things around soon, calls for Hynes’ firing will grow among Devils followers.
An update on Jesse Puljujarvi plus the latest on the Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE OILERS AND PULJUJARVI?
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes Jesse Puljujarvi’s plan to play for the Finnish Elite League’s Oulun Karpat could benefit the Edmonton Oilers. He has until 5 pm ET on Dec. 1 to sign his qualifying offer or be ineligible for the remainder of the season. By late November he’ll have played around 24 Liiga games. If he performs well, it could help Oilers general manager Ken Holland fashion a trade.
The fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, Puljujarvi requested a trade earlier this summer after struggling with the Oilers.
Holland admits he’s had conversations “with numerous clubs” that have had “an interest, some interest, in acquiring Jesse.” Holland added he’s had “two or three new teams reach out to me” in the last 10 days. The Oilers GM said he’ll do a deal if it’s in the best interests of his club.
If Puljujarvi stays healthy and productive in Finland, Spector believes the winger will be traded by mid-November. He feels the unhappy youngster has “almost certainly” played his final game as an Oiler.
TSN’s Ryan Ryshaug believes the Oilers’ asking price “is a prospect with top 9 F potential and a draft pick.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If someone steps up with that asking price, Puljujarvi will be traded. The problem is it appears no one is yet willing to make that offer. Maybe that changes if a rival club’s lack of right-wing scoring depth causes them to stumble from the gate.
As “Cousin Mark” suggests, that’ll depend on Puljujarvi’s performance and health playing in Finland through October leading up to mid-November. If he’s playing poorly or gets hurt, the winger’s trade value will hit rock bottom.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck wonders how long the contract impasse between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner will drag on. He draws comparisons to last season’s standoff with William Nylander, which wasn’t resolved until Dec. 1. It’s believed Marner’s situation is delaying other restricted free agent signings around the league, as those players could be waiting to see what he gets on his next contract.
Marner is making plans to practice with a Swiss team if this situation drags on through training camp. Billeck believes no one knows for certain when this will be resolved.
Turning to head coach Mike Babcock, Billeck thinks a change behind the bench is possible if the Leafs fail to stage a deep playoff run next spring.
Billeck’s colleague James O’Brien notes the pressure faced by Leafs GM Kyle Dubas to get Marner re-signed and his relationship with Babcock. He also notes Dubas must eventually find new deals or replacement for defensemen Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Marner situation could be resolved when the season opens in October. That’s when the Leafs are expected to place permanently sidelined wingers David Clarkson and Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Leafs to spend over the $81.5-million cap ceiling by up to their combined $10.5 million, which could be what it takes to get Marner under contract.
Rival RFAs could be waiting on Marner but they won’t wait for long. As training camp approaches in mid-September, I think we’ll see several signings. Most of those players won’t want to risk missing training camp or preseason play.
Babcock will certainly feel the heat if the Leafs struggle this season or suffer another first-round playoff elimination. Cap Friendly indicates he’s under contract through 2022-23 earning over $6 million annually. However, the deep-pocketed Leafs won’t flinch at replacing him before that deal expires.
As for Muzzin and Barrie, that depends upon their asking prices. The Leafs currently have over $55.4 million invested in 11 players for 2020-21. That’ll likely jump by at least $10 million once Marner is re-signed. The Leafs have only one defenseman (Morgan Rielly) under contract beyond this season.