NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 10, 2021

Corey Crawford retires, Islanders sign Mathew Barzal, COVID-19 continues to affect training camps, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NJ.COM: Corey Crawford announced his retirement yesterday. The 36-year-old goaltender spent 10 full NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed a two-year contract last fall with the New Jersey Devils.

Goaltender Corey Crawford retires after 10 NHL seasons (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford had been absent for several days last week from the Devils training camp. On Friday, it was announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

Crawford enjoyed a stellar decade with the Blackhawks, backstopping them to two Stanley Cups (2013, 2015). He was also a two-time winner (2012-13, 2014-15) of the William M. Jennings Trophy. He played 488 regular-season games, with a record of 260 wins, 162 losses and 53 overtime losses, with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 26 shutouts.

PuckPedia indicates Crawford is retiring rather than going on long-term injury reserve. Under the new memorandum of understanding to the collective bargaining agreement, his salary comes off the Devils’ books. Any multi-year plus-35 contracts where the compensation is the same or goes up with no signing bonuses after the first year no longer count against the salary cap upon retirement.

Best wishes to Crawford and his family in their future endeavors.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders yesterday signed Mathew Barzal to a three-year, $21 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million, though in actual salary he’ll earn $4 million this season, $7 million next season and $10 million in 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The actual salary for the final season is notable because that’s what the Islanders must offer Barzal in 2023 to qualify his rights when he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s going to get a hefty raise on his next contract but that’s what it’ll take to keep their first-line center on Long Island.

**UPDATE** Under the terms of last year’s CBA extension (as per Cap Friendly), “The Qualifying Offer is limited to 120% of their previous contract’s annual average (AAV).” This applies to players on contracts signed after July 10, 2020.  In Barzal’s case, 120% of the AAV is $8.4 million, not $10 million. My thanks to “Howard” and “Caper” for pointing this out. 

This signing leaves the Isles over the $81.5 million salary cap by nearly $3.1 million, but they’ll get cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR to start the season. Nevertheless, the Isles could still be attempting to make a cost-cutting trade. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers’ winger James Neal has finally hit the ice in training camp after missing the first five days of practice in quarantine. For their season-opener, he’s expected to either be on the 23-man roster listed as unfit to play and on injured reserve or part of their six-man taxi squad.

The Calgary Flames yesterday indicated Sam Bennett was “unfit to participate” in practice. They also signed Brett Ritchie to a professional tryout offer.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings claimed defenseman Christian Djoos off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The Penguins canceled practice yesterday due to potential exposure to COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution. The club is expected to release a statement today regarding Sunday’s schedule. It’s unknown if any players, coaches or staff members tested positive.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi, defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Sean Walker, and goaltenders Cal Petersen and Matthew Villalta were deemed “unfit to participate” in yesterday’s scrimmage.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they will open their season without fans in attendance over concerns of rising COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County and west-central Florida. The Lightning have permission to allow a limited number of fans inside Amelie Arena but have opted to wait until at least Feb. 5, when they’ll reassess the local situation.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced it will stage a 24-game regular season for 2020-21. The start date has yet to be determined. The WHL is among the feeder leagues for the National Hockey League.










Several Players Already Declare Unfit to Participate In NHL Training Camps

Several Players Already Declare Unfit to Participate In NHL Training Camps

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 5, 2021

Start times for the upcoming season released, former Oilers coach John Muckler passes away and updates on Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, Gabriel Landeskog, Joe Pavelski, Sergei Bobrovsky and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines,

NHL.COM: The league officially announced start times for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The schedule opens on Jan. 13 with five games on the slate. The Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at 5: 30 pm ET, the Montreal Canadiens tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 pm ET, the Chicago Blackhawks meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 pm ET, the Vancouver Canucks square off with the Edmonton Oilers at 10 pm ET, followed by the St. Louis Blues meeting the Colorado Avalanche at 10:30 pm ET.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oilers coach John Muckler passed away Monday at age 86. Muckler was assistant and associate coach during the Oilers’ first four Stanley Cup runs and was head coach during their fifth and final championship in 1990.

Before joining the Oilers, Muckler did stints in various positions with the Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. After leaving the Oilers in 1991, he served as head of hockey operations and head coach with the Buffalo Sabres, went on to become head coach of the Rangers, followed by becoming general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muckler had a long, distinguished career in the NHL. My condolences to his family, friends, former associates and players, and the Oilers organization.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Contract talks between the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin have yet to begin but the superstar winger isn’t concerned. He pointed out there’s no rush and plenty of time to get a deal done. The Capitals captain is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. “Whatever is done is done. If it’s not done, we’re gonna talk and we’ll see,” said Ovechkin, who is acting as his own agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin wants to stay in Washington and the Capitals want to keep him. Unless his salary demands become exorbitant, I expect they’ll reach an agreement that keeps both sides happy.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Brad Marchand is hoping to be ready in time for the club’s season-opener on Jan. 14. He underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and the recovery period was expected to be four months.

Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting one of their two sidelined top-line forwards back for the start of the season (or soon afterward) will provide a big boost to the Bruins’ offense. David Pastrnak is also on the shelf (hip surgery) and isn’t expected to return until sometime in February.

NHL.COM: Gabriel Landeskog is among several members of the Colorado Avalanche to miss the first day of on-ice activities. Winger Brandon Saad, defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Philipp Grubauer joined the Avs captain on the sidelines. All were listed as “unfit to play” with no timetable as to when they’re return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under league guidelines, teams are not allowed to comment if players are sidelined during training camp due to COVID-19 testing or contract tracing. However, the league will announce if players test positive during the regular season.

This could be a testing issue in which they received false positives and have to be re-tested again. This was commonplace among several NHL teams during the 2020 playoffs. We’ll learn more about their status as the week progresses.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars center Joe Pavelski is listed as day-to-day pending further results from medicals. Meanwhile, immigration issues has delayed goaltender Anton Khudobin’s efforts to report to training camp. He’s fulfilling his mandatory seven-day quarantine and it’s expected he’ll be on the ice at some point during training camp.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Sergei Bobrovsky and Patric Hornqvist were among several Florida Panthers declared “unfit to play” yesterday.

TSN: Mathew Barzal is at New York Islanders training camp and underwent his team physical. However, the young center remains without a contract and cannot practice with his teammates until he’s signed.

TWINCITIES.COM: Winger Kevin Fiala missed on-ice practice yesterday for precautionary reasons. He returned to the ice after practice to skate with assistant coaches Brett McLean and Darby Hendrickson.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: James Neal and Dominik Kahun are among four Oilers declared unfit to play yesterday.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom is in quarantine for seven days after coming in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

CBS SPORTS: The Chicago Blackhawks placed forward Zack Smith on waivers.

SPORTSNET: The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Marko Dano on waivers.

TSN: The province of Quebec is the third province to approve NHL games this season in Canada. Manitoba and Ontario have yet to make a final announcement, though Manitoba is showing support for the league’s plan.

THE AHL: 28 teams will participate in the AHL’s 2020-21 schedule.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

Could the Rangers shop the first-overall pick? Are changes coming for the Penguins? What’s the latest on the Leafs and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE RANGERS LISTEN TO OFFERS FOR FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton will spend the coming weeks deciding if he’ll use the first-overall pick to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere or shop it for the No. 2 center his club badly needs.

Will the New York Rangers keep the first-overall pick and select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

The Rangers already have left-wingers Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, making it difficult for Lafreniere to be an immediate fit in their roster. Garrioch expects Gorton will find a place for the youngster unless he gets an offer too good to refuse. He believes the Ottawa Senators (with the third and fifth overall picks), Montreal Canadiens, and Detroit Red Wings could come calling.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators, Canadiens, and Red Wings lack the type of center the Rangers would want as part of the return. I think Gorton will listen to offers but he might not get one to his liking. He could also surprise us by taking Quinton Byfield instead of Lafreniere with that pick, but I believe he’ll stick with the time-honored adage that you take the best available player.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford indicated changes are coming during his end-of-season press conference yesterday.

Team sources indicate there could be an assistant coach change at some point this week. Rutherford indicated no changes are coming to the roster core. He expressed disappointment in defenseman Justin Schultz’s performance, an indication perhaps the pending free agent won’t be re-signed.

The Penguins GM also spoke about goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. The pair are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Rutherford acknowledged it would be difficult to keep both. He also feels his roster needs to get younger.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Penguins are leaning toward keeping this year’s first-round pick (15th overall) and sending next season’s first-round selection to the Minnesota Wild. As per conditions in the Jeff Zucker trade last February, the Penguins have seven days following the lottery to reach a decision.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s comments should put to rest recent suggestions that Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang should hit the trade block. Unless he can free up salary-cap space, he’ll have to choose between Murray or Jarry. I expect he’ll take the younger, affordable option with Jarry.

It won’t be surprising if Schultz doesn’t return. He hasn’t been the same since fracturing his leg last season.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas must decide if he’ll re-sign goaltender Frederik Andersen to a long-term deal given his recent history of giving up soft goals in the playoffs.

Do the Leafs really want to tie into Andersen for the long term? Can they afford to? Do people really think the Leafs will turn into Stanley Cup contenders if Dubas acquires Matt Murray?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To answer those questions in order: No, they shouldn’t. No, they can’t. No, they won’t. Andersen has a year left on his contract. Unless better options appear via the trade market or free agency (provided Dubas can free up sufficient cap space), best to ride it out with Andersen for one more year and see what becomes available during next season or next summer.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports his understanding of Dubas’ no-trade promise after re-signing William Nylander last season was that it was solely for the immediate aftermath of the agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever Dubas promised Nylander, the young winger could soon find out that a general manager’s promises are easily broken for the good of the team or the GM’s ongoing employment.

Friedman also believes San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton could be on the Leafs’ radar, depending on what happens with Jason Spezza.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All due respect to Thornton, who’s had a wonderful career, but he’s well past his best-before date. Besides, the Leafs already had an aging former Sharks on their roster in Patrick Marleau and it cost them their 2020 first-round pick to get rid of the final year of his contract. They don’t need to repeat that mistake. Yes, I know, they could get Thornton to agree to a one-year, bonus-laden deal, but he’s not going to make the Leafs a better team next season. 

UPDATE ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Terry Jones reports Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated he’s got some decisions to make going forward after his club was eliminated from the qualifying round. Noting Holland spoke about the flat salary cap for next season, Jones speculates Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Smith, and James Neal might not be back.

Jones also thinks one of the Oilers’ top-four defensemen other than Ethan Bear could be shopped. He guesses Adam Larsson could be available in a “semi-major trade.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Holland could decide not to qualify the winger’s rights, making him a UFA. The Oilers GM could then attempt to sign him to a more affordable contract, or simply look for a better option elsewhere.

The 38-year-old Smith is no longer an effective NHL starting goalie. The Oilers need a better option to split the duties with the erratic Mikko Koskinen. Neal is signed through 2022-23 and his age (32), the cap hit ($5.27 million) and offensive inconsistency will be difficult to move. A buyout is possible here.

Larsson was acquired four years ago from New Jersey for Taylor Hall. Holland might have to bundle him with a draft pick or prospect or pick up part of his $4.16-million cap hit for next season. Larsson also has a modified no-trade clause.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we examine the latest on the Flames and Oilers, plus how the elimination of the UFA interview period could be a win for the players.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES AND OILERS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently examined the effect of a flat salary cap ($81.5 million) on the Calgary Flames for next season. With nine forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender under contract, they have less than $17 million to work with.

Of their restricted free agents, Cruickshank assumed the Flames will retain Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. He suggested shopping Mark Jankowski’s rights or letting him become an unrestricted free agent by not qualifying his rights.

Cruickshank doesn’t expect the Flames can afford to keep both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic. Both are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. He suggested re-signing Brodie and letting Hamonic walk or shopping his rights for a pick at the 2020 NHL Draft. Trade deadline acquisitions Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort are unlikely to be re-signed.  Cruickshank expects UFA goalie Cam Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere, leaving the Flames in need of an affordable backup (like Anton Forsberg) for David Rittich.

Trade rumors have dogged Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (Photo via NHL Images).

That won’t leave much room to pursue a free-agent star such as winger Taylor Hall unless they make a couple of significant cost-cutting moves.

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis also speculated the Flames will retain Brodie during a recent mailbag segment. He was also asked if the Flames might replace Talbot and winger Johnny Gaudreau with Robin Lehner and Hall. Francis felt there’s a remote possibility to sign Lehner but it made no sense to dump Gaudreau to sign the more expensive Hall.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis also noted the trade speculation dogging Gaudreau over the past year-and-a-half, expecting such a move will eventually happen. The 26-year-old has fallen out of favor with Flames fans since a disappointing performance in last year’s playoffs followed by sub-par production during this season.

Another dissatisfying postseason effort on Gaudreau’s part will ramp up the trade speculation during the off-season. He lacks no-trade protection for next season, but his $6.75-million annual average value could be difficult to move under a flat cap.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined the Edmonton Oilers’ cap situation. For next season, they could use their leverage to re-sign Ethan Bear (no arbitration rights) to a cheap one-year contract. Trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou (restricted free agent) could return at his current salary ($3 million) while veteran goalie Mike Smith (UFA) should return.

Willis speculates winger James Neal and defenseman Kris Russell could be bought out, though the latter could be shopped with 50 percent salary retention (in real dollars worth only $750K to his new team).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect most of Willis’ scenario for next season will play out as expected. Smith is in the twilight of his career and could accept another one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary.

ELIMINATION OF UFA INTERVIEW PERIOD COULD BE A WIN FOR PLAYERS

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the recent elimination of the five-to-seven day window for clubs to interview pending UFAs in the CBA extension is a win for the players. With little time for general managers to prepare, it could spark a return to the opening-day bidding wars of the past.

Larkin suggests it will be the end of media leaks leading up to the noon ET start of free agency. It could also mean fewer signings on opening day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While this isn’t a rumor, this will affect the UFA market going forward.  The absence of the interview period means there will be more intrigue leading up to the start of the free-agency period. It will also mean we could see some notable UFAs taking several days to sign.

The flat cap could also affect the market value for the top UFA. Larkin speculates that could change in a year or two as hockey-related revenue improves, thus raising the salary cap.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

Check out the latest speculation on the Oilers and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS FACE A CAP SQUEEZE

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently reported the Oilers will be squeezed by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21. With over $71 million already invested in next season’s payroll, general manager Ken Holland will have around $10.5 million available.

The Oilers restricted free agents include Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, and Matt Benning. Their unrestricted free agents include Mike Smith, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis.

Staples feels $10.5 million should be enough to retain those free agents or bring in potential replacements. However, it rules out the possibility of pursuing a big-ticket free agent. He knows some Oilers followers would love to see the club bring back winger Taylor Hall, but that doesn’t seem possible, especially with younger players like Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard in need of contracts down the road.

Could the Edmonton Oilers consider an off-season buyout of James Neal’s contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

It could also be difficult to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson if the cap stays flat for 2021-22. Both are due to become UFAs next summer.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also examined the difficulties facing the Oilers under a flat cap.

He speculates useful UFAs like Smith and center Riley Sheahan could find cost-conscious offers unacceptable. The Oilers could also trade or walk away from RFAs like Athanasiou or Benning, who have arbitration rights.

For those without arbitration rights like Bear, Mitchell speculates they could get an affordable one-year bridge deal. They could also consider trading Kris Russell or Alex Chiasson or buying out winger James Neal’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fates of some of those free agents could depend upon their play in the upcoming playoff tournament. The same goes for Russell, Chiasson, or Neal. I agree that those players lacking arbitration will probably have to accept bridge deals for a year or two.

As Staples observed, Russell could be enticing to a cost-conscious club looking to reach the cap floor. He carries a $4 million cap hit but will earn just $1.5 million in actual salary after being paid his $1 million signing bonus for 2020-21. That’s assuming one of those clubs will be on his 15-team trade list for next season.

Cap Friendly indicates buying out Neal would free up over $3.8 million, leaving just over $1.9 million against the Oilers cap. However, it would also be that much dead cap space annually for the next six seasons.

Holland could be reluctant to move Chiasson. He carries an affordable $2.15 million cap hit for next season.

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl recently examined several potential free-agent forwards who could help the Sabres improve their road record. He suggested Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikail Granlund, Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov, or Florida’s Erik Haula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli, a skilled two-way player with Stanley Cup experience, would be the best bet. Granlund struggled following his trade from Minnesota last season but improved when John Hynes took over as Predators coach at midseason.

Both could provide a welcome boost to the Sabres’ secondary scoring. Signing them, however, could be difficult given the Sabres’ recent reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.