NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 28, 2021

On the eve of the free-agent market, the Avalanche re-sign Gabriel Landeskog, the Lightning trade Tyler Johnson to the Blackhawks and the Canucks ship Nate Schmidt to the Jets. Get the details plus other signings and trades in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed Gabriel Landeskog to an eight-year, $56 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million.

The Colorado Avalanche re-sign captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big name off the market just hours before free agency begins at noon ET today. The cap hit isn’t too bad but the term is lengthy for a forward turning 29 in November. Still, it should be worthwhile during the first half of the deal if Landeskog’s performance doesn’t decline during that period. It could get costly over the latter half of the contract if his skills deteriorate.

Landeskog is the Avs’ captain and their first-line left-winger. They need his skill and leadership to remain a Stanley Cup contender over the next four years. His cap hit, however, leaves the Avs with $12.3 million in cap space for 2021-22. That could make it difficult to re-sign goaltender Philipp Grubauer and to fill out the remaining roster spots.

TAMPA BAY TIMES/NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Tampa Bay Lightning trade winger Tyler Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Brent Seabrook’s contract and a second-round pick in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning were expected to trade Johnson this summer to free up salary-cap space. By taking on the permanently sidelined Seabrook’s contract, they’ll free up around $5 million in cap space by placing him on long-term injury reserve. That contract is worth an annual average value of $6.875 million through 2023-24.

Johnson’s contract also expires in ’23-’24 and he carries a $5 million annual cap hit. The Blackhawks now have around $2.5 million in cap room, though they can get $3.9 million more if necessary by placing permanently sidelined forward Andrew Shaw on LTIR.

THE PROVINCE/WINNIPEG SUN: The Vancouver Canucks trade defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a third-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A salary dump by the Canucks, shedding $5.95 million through 2024-25 from their books. With over $26 million in cap space, they have sufficient room to re-sign young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. It should also allow them to fend off any offer sheet attempts for Pettersson.

The Jets, meanwhile, add their second defenseman in as many days after acquiring Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals. A lack of depth among their top-four blueliners was an area of concern last season. Schmidt and Dillon should help them address that issue.

THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken are expected to sign winger Jaden Schwartz when the free-agent market opens at noon ET today.

SPORTSNET: Patrik Laine is accepting the Columbus Blue Jackets’ $7.5 million qualifying offer for 2021-22.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins are reportedly closing in on a new contract for center David Krejci.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins have re-signed defenseman Mike Reilly to a three-year deal worth $3 million per season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Joel Armia to a four-year, $13.6 million contract. The annual average value is $3.4 million.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers are reportedly re-signing defenseman Brandon Montour to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million per season.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are expected to sign defenseman Keith Yandle to a one-year, $900K contract. Yandle was bought out of his former contract by the Florida Panthers.

NEW YORK POST: The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to sign former Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

WGR550.COM: The Buffalo Sabres re-signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year, $750K contract.

TSN: The Winnipeg Jets re-signed goaltender Eric Comrie to a one-year, $750K deal.

THE PROVINCE: The Canucks bought out the final season of goaltender Braden Holtby’s contract.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks bought out the remaining three years of goaltender Martin Jones’ contract.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers bought out the remaining two years of winger James Neal’s contract. They’re also believed to be working on a four-year contract extension for defenseman Darnell Nurse.

THE DENVER POST: The Avalanche acquired defenseman Kurtis MacDermid from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2023 fourth-rounder.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s potential buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli listed 10 buyout candidates who could enter this summer’s free-agent market. The first window for contract buyouts opens 24 hours following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final and closes at 5 PM EST on July 27.

Tony DeAngelo is expected to be bought out of his contract later this month (NHL Images).

Topping his list is New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. The Blueshirts have reportedly finalized plans to buy out the final season ($4.8 million annual average value) of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo has played his final game with the Rangers. While his defensive game needs work he’s a skillful puck-moving blueliner. Given his personal baggage, however, the question is whether another NHL club will take a chance on him. Rumors linked him to the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens before the April 12 trade deadline.

Edmonton Oilers winger James Neal, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, Florida Panthers blueliner Keith Yandle and San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones were among the top-five candidates.

Seravalli pointed out Oilers general manager Ken Holland has hinted at buying out one or two contracts this summer. The 33-year-old Neal has two years with an annual average value of $5.75 million.

Johnson missed all but four games this season to injury but Seravalli observed he wasn’t on the list of players exempted from the upcoming expansion draft due to injury. He suggested placing Johnson on long-term injury reserve might be the better way to go for the Avs. Johnson has two years left at $6 million annually.

Yandle was a healthy scratch during the Panthers’ playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 34-year-old has two years remaining on his deal with an AAV of $6.35 million.

Seravalli suggests the Sharks buy out Jones and use the cap savings to put toward his replacement. The 31-year-old netminder has three years remaining at $5.75 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could buy out Neal but there’s also talk of shipping him to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Duncan Keith, whereby the Blackhawks would buy him out.

Putting Johnson on LTIR sounds like a better option. However, a buyout might be the only choice if it appears he’ll be healthy to return next season. The Avs need cap space to re-sign Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Gabriel Landeskog.

Yandle surfaced in the rumor mill back in January when it appeared he would become a healthy scratch to start the season, putting his Ironman streak in jeopardy. That talk died down when the 34-year-old blueliner never missed a game during the regular season.

There might be a trade market for Yandle if he agrees to waive his no-movement clause. However, the Panthers would either have to absorb part of his cap hit, take back a bad contract, or try to work a three-way deal.

Jones has really struggled over the last three seasons. The Sharks need more consistency between the pipes. Buying him out, however, would result in six years of dead cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly) totaling over $12 million.

Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise is No. 6 on Seravalli’s list. He suggests they “bite the bullet” and use the savings for next season to re-sign Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Parise buyout seems unlikely. It’s eight years of dead cap space. They’d get a $2.3 million cap hit for next season, but it jumps to over $6.3 million in 2022-23 and over $7.3 million annually for the following two seasons. The only real cap relief would come in the final four years at over $833k per season.

Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen, Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop, Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron, and Anaheim Ducks winger Sonny Milano round out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks tried to trade Virtanen but couldn’t find any takers. A buyout seems likely given his on-ice struggles and off-ice issues.

Bishop missed all of the 2021-22 schedule recovering from knee surgery but Seravalli indicated he worked out with the club toward the end of the season. He could be bought out if healthy but they might not go that route if Anton Khudobin is selected in the expansion draft. Seravalli suggests a buyout of Bishop would enable them to protect Khudobin as Jake Oettinger is exempt but that might not be in their plans.

Seravalli pointed out the Canadiens put Byron on waivers three times during the regular season. However, his performance in this year’s playoffs probably means he’ll be back next season. The Habs could consider other options to free up some cap space.

Milano only played six games last season with the Ducks. With a year left on his contract at $1.7 million, he could become a buyout candidate, though the savings ($500K) are minimal.

Seravalli also suggested keeping an eye on Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman, Detroit Red Wings blueliner Danny DeKeyser and Los Angeles Kings rearguard Olli Maatta.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2021

What would be a fair return for Mitch Marner if the Leafs shopped him in the trade market? Should the Jets shop Kyle Connor for a defenseman? What moves should the Oilers make this summer? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: In his latest Toronto Maple Leafs mailbag, Luke Fox was asked if the club could win a Mitch Marner trade. While acknowledging the front office’s belief in the 24-year-old playmaker, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas would want a return that fits with his bet-on-young skill vision that helps the club now. He also doesn’t foresee Marner requesting a trade.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

He doubted Dubas would accept someone like Columbus’ Patrik Laine or Seth Jones or Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk in return. However, he could listen if the Buffalo Sabres offered up center Jack Eichel.

John Tavares’ injury highlights the Leafs lack of center depth. Fox suggests shifting Tavares to the wing as he ages and his foot speed slows.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox also said Eichel’s neck injury would be a huge caveat, adding they shouldn’t make that move unless certain he’s fully recovered.

Eichel for Marner straight up would work in terms of player value and cap dollars. Nevertheless, I doubt it’s a move we’ll see take place between these two long-standing rivals.

Fox was also asked which players the Leafs should add to address the lack of killer instinct team president Brendan Shanahan felt his club still needs. He wondered if Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf or Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny would accept a Joe Thornton deal, or if Colorado’s Brandon Saad would come more cheaply than Zach Hyman.

His other suggested options include Minnesota’s Nick Bonino, Vegas’ Mattias Janmark and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak. He also proposed it would be great to see what a healthy Nick Foligno could do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas will have to engage in more salary-cap gymnastics given his club’s limited cap space to address that need. I think Getzlaf re-signs with Anaheim or retires. Stastny might be a possibility. Saad could cost more than Hyman.

The Wild could re-sign Bonino if he’s willing to accept a pay cut from his current $4.1 million cap hit. If not, he could be a good option for the Leafs. Janmark and Oleksiak could also be worthwhile cost-effective additions.

Foligno could also help if he’s fully healthy but that depends on whether he sees a future in Toronto or if they feel they should look toward younger alternatives.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma wondered if the Vancouver Canucks would be interested in Alex Kerfoot. The Leafs aren’t expected to protect the 26-year-old center in next month’s expansion draft. They need to clear cap space if they hope to re-sign Zach Hyman. The Leafs can’t afford to take back salary but perhaps they’d accept a draft pick or prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuzma noted the Canucks pursue Kerfoot four years ago as a college free agent before he signed with the Colorado Avalanche. He could be an affordable option to bolster the Canucks’ depth at center.

SHOULD THE JETS SHOP CONNOR FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes it’s time for the Jets to pay the price to acquire some high-end defensive talent if they wish to be more than playoff also-rans. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot all departed since the Jets marched to the 2018 Western Conference Final.

McIntyre doubts we’ll see any significant off-season activity out of Winnipeg based on their history. However, he wonders at what point general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will be forced to consider moving a core player to balance a lineup that isn’t good enough.

Other than goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and perhaps winger Nikolaj Ehlers, McIntyre doesn’t believe there should be an untouchable on the Jets roster. He proposed shopping winger Kyle Connor, who struggled in the Montreal series after center Mark Scheifele was suspended. The Jets’ crop of promising young skaters like Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins and Cole Perfetti could give them the freedom to use Connor as trade bait to address their blueline issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff has occasionally made a big move during his tenure as Jets GM, the latest being his swap of Patrick Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois. For the most part, however, he tends to be patient, sometimes to a fault.

The Jets GM could surprise us with a major offseason move. Like McIntyre, however, I don’t expect him to shop a core player like Connor this summer. He could instead look for affordable options via trade or free agency while preparing to promote promising youngsters like Ville Heinola or Dylan Samberg into the lineup.

THE LATEST ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited NHL insider Kevin Allen’s three main offseason proposals for the Oilers. They include pursuing a younger goalie like Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo or the New York Islanders Semyon Varlamov via trade, or Frederik Andersen or Linus Ullmark via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old Mike Smith for another season but could shop Mikko Koskinen. The Islanders aren’t in a hurry in shop Varlamov but inquiring with the Jackets about Merzlikins or Korpisalo makes sense. It wouldn’t hurt to kick tires on Andersen or Ullmark.

Allen also suggested the Oilers try to come up with enough assets to bundle with James Neal to get a rebuilding club with cap space (Detroit Red Wings) to take the winger off their hands.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Holland will consider that option. The assets in that package, however, could be more than he’s willing to part with. A contract buyout remains possible for Neal if he isn’t moved in a cost-cutting deal.

Allen also recommended re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson and then calling the New York Rangers about Tony DeAngelo.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers are working on the first two. DeAngelo’s character issues are a red flag but there could be clubs interested in the puck-moving defenseman. If the Oilers were interested, they could wait until he’s bought out of his current contract and then sign him as a free agent.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2021

Are the Oilers making progress in Nugent-Hopkins’ contract talks? Will they trade or buy out Mikko Koskinen or James Neal? Could Oscar Klefbom be exposed in the expansion draft? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Oilers general manager Jim Matheson faces a long to-do list this summer. Topping that list is signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a new contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (NHL Images).

Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay but Matheson wondered if Holland will go higher than $6 million per season or $5.5 million and over five years. He also feels the Oilers see him now as a top-six left-winger rather than a center and want to pay him as such.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matheson’s colleague David Staples cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming Nugent-Hopkins contract talks haven’t gone well and his status remains uncertain. They were apparently close to a deal before the season began but things fell apart at the last minute.

Plenty of time for the two sides to work things out. I’d get concerned, however, if they haven’t gotten any closer when the calendar flips to July. Nugent-Hopkins will draw plenty of interest around the league if he goes to market on July 28. Someone will pay him what he wants.

The Oilers intend to bring back 39-year-old goaltender Mike Smith. As for Mikko Koskinen, Matheson believes his return is less than 50-50. They might not buy out Koskinen but Matheson wondered if they’d absorb part of the goalie’s $4.5 million cap hit to facilitate a trade or include a player or draft pick to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staples noted Friedman said buying out Koskinen was a possibility. He also cited NHL insider Brian Lawton telling Oilers Now show host Bob Stauffer the Oilers shouldn’t bring Koskinen back. However, Staples suggests finding a suitable replacement this summer won’t be easy.

Koskinen, 32, struggled at times this season and wasn’t a reliable backup for Smith. He has just one year left on his contract. I think Holland will try to trade him, even if it means eating some of his salary. Failing that, he’ll probably go the buyout route at a cap hit of $1.5 million for 2021-22 and 2022-23 as per Cap Friendly.

Turning to the blueline, Matheson wondered if Holland will leave Oscar Klefbom unprotected in the expansion draft. He’d be taking a chance on the Kraken being scared off by the defenseman’s season-long absence with a shoulder injury.

Pending UFA blueliner Tyson Barrie is looking at a long-term deal and will see what’s out there. Matheson expected Holland will re-sign Adam Larsson, perhaps around the same $4.1 million range of his current deal. The question is whether it’s three or four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland must also ensure he’ll have sufficient long-term cap space to sign Darnell Nurse to a contract extension. He’s slated to become a UFA next summer but contact talks can begin this summer. If Klefbom is selected by the Kraken in the expansion draft it’ll free up $4.1 million from their cap payroll, giving Holland extra room to sign Nurse or make other moves.

Matheson considers it likely Holland will buy out veteran winger James Neal. Doing so would free up $3.83 million in each of the next two seasons to target an unrestricted free agent winger such as Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman or Toronto’s Zach Hyman. If Neal is bought out, Matheson sees him returning to Pittsburgh where he had his best seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Mark Spector believes Holland should buy out Neal, considering him dead cap space already at $5.75 million annually and barely playing. It would count as $1.92 million over the next four years against the Oilers cap.

He also suggests Holland should explore trading Neal, absorbing half his salary for the final two years of his contract to make it work. However, he feels there would have to be something else included in the deal.

A trade is possible. A buyout is more likely. And no, he won’t be returning to Pittsburgh even if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin like him. He’s a fading star who won’t address the Penguins’ need for a better starting goalie and more skilled toughness in their lineup.

Matheson also suggested St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Vegas Golden Knights versatile forward Mattias Janmark and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth as possible free-agent targets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland would have better luck landing Janmark and/or Nemeth than Schwartz. The Blues hope to re-sign him. Failing that, he’ll draw considerable interest in the free-agent market. The Oilers might not win a bidding war for his services.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 27, 2021

Are the Penguins facing a roster shakeup? What next for the Panthers following another early postseason exit? What could be in store for the Oilers this offseason? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan wonders if the Pittsburgh Penguins will face a roster shakeup following their first-round elimination by the New York Islanders. Veteran core players Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have a year remaining on their respective contracts, with Malkin carrying a no-movement clause.

The Penguins risk losing a young depth forward such as Zach Aston-Reese, Jared McCann or possibly Kasperi Kapanen to the Seattle Kraken in this summer’s expansion draft.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel also wonders about the futures of Malkin and Letang, as well as that of head coach Mike Sullivan.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Based on comments earlier this season by Brian Burke, the Penguins president of hockey operations, Vensel speculates they could try to bolster their goaltending while also adding some size and toughness to the lineup. The shaky performance of Tristan Jarry could send the Penguins into this summer’s trade and free-agent markets in search of help between the pipes.

THE ATHLETIC: Sean Gentille believes Jarry’s goaltending cost the Penguins the series. He wonders if they’ll move around some money to pursue a free agent such as Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier or Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark or look to the trade market for help.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins don’t need to blow up the roster but changes are necessary after three consecutive early postseason exits. Burke and general manager Ron Hextall will likely retool rather than rebuild, bringing in younger players to support their aging stars.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn’t in favor of breaking up the core. His opinion could carry some weight with Burke and Hextall but the final decisions rest with those two.

Crosby isn’t going anywhere and Malkin won’t be traded unless he requests it. The Penguins could shop Letang but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returns. He also has a modified no-trade clause listing 18 preferred destinations. He also carries a $7.25 million cap hit next season.

Goaltending is their weakness. Jarry was supposed to be an improvement over the departed Matt Murray but he couldn’t handle the pressure as a starter. Finding a suitably experienced starter will be top of the list, followed by adding more size and toughness.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Florida Panthers could lose a good roster player to the Kraken in the expansion draft. It could be a forward such as Patric Hornqvist or Mason Marchment, a blueliner like Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas or Markus Nuutivaara, or pending UFA goaltender Chris Driedger.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Dave Hyde pondered what promising goalie Spencer Knight’s performance in the final two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning means for Sergei Bobrovsky’s future in Florida. He wondered if general manager Bill Zito will try to move Bobrovsky this summer if someone is willing to take on the veteran netminder’s hefty contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers drafting Knight in the 2019 draft and signing Bobrovsky days later was a topic of recent amusement for some folks on social media. They conveniently overlook the fact that it was former Panthers GM Dale Tallon who made those moves. Zito was left with a headache.

Bobrovksky’s inconsistent play since joining the Panthers, his full no-movement clause and $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 makes him difficult to move, especially with the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season. As per Cap Friendly, a buyout will be an expensive long-term headache.

MORE OILERS SPECULATION

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson doesn’t expect Oilers GM Ken Holland to go on a massive spending spree this summer to bolster his roster. While Holland will have $28 million in cap space, a portion will be spent on trying to re-sign pending UFAs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.

Matheson considers Larsson the cheapest and most likely to be re-signed. Nugent-Hopkins will be the most expensive while Barrie could be departing after a year in Edmonton because he’ll want a long-term deal.

Holland said he intends to bring back goaltender Mike Smith for another season. Matheson wonders if Mikko Koskinen will be traded, perhaps packaged with a draft pick or prospect to a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of their young goalies.

Buyouts are also possible. Matheson believes James Neal to be the most likely candidate. Holland didn’t rule out trading a prospect such as Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg or Dylan Holloway for immediate help but he said he’s not doing that for a one-year player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could try to convince Nugent-Hopkins to accept slightly less than his current $6 million annual average value. If RNH signs elsewhere, Holland will use the savings to bring in a replacement via trade or free agency.

I like Matheson’s suggestion of packaging Koskinen to the Blue Jackets for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. Koskinen’s 15-team no-trade list, however, could be a sticking point if he doesn’t want to go to Columbus. Even then, the Jackets could get better offers for one of those goalies.










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.