THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators and goaltender Juuse Saros agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Winger Kevin Fiala inked a one-year deal worth $5.1 million with the Minnesota Wild.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks reached an agreement with winger Alex Nylander on a one-year deal worth just over $874K.
THE DENVER POST: Defenseman Dennis Gilbert signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Colorado Avalanche. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: By re-signing with their respective clubs the four avoided salary arbitration. Only two players – Calgary’s Nikita Zadorov and Philadelphia’s Travis Sanheim – are now slated for hearings, both on Aug. 26.
It’s unsurprising that the Predators invested that much in Saros. After all, he took over as their starting goalie from Pekka Rinne last season. Cap Friendly shows them carrying over $12 million in cap space with restricted free agent winger Eeli Tolvanen to sign.
Wild general manager Bill Guerin hoped to sign Fiala to a long-term deal but the two sides couldn’t find common ground. They’ll get another opportunity next summer when the winger once again becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
How much the Wild can pay Fiala beyond this season depends on the cost of signing Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov. That’s when the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter start biting deeply into their cap room.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: 2021 Calder Trophy Finalist Alex Nedeljkovic remains eligible for the award this season. That’s because he played less than 25 games last season, in fewer than six games in each of the previous two seasons and doesn’t turn 26 until January.
WGR 550: “Blueshirts Breakaway”, a New York Rangers-based podcast, attempted to pressure the Buffalo Sabres into trading Jack Eichel (preferably to the Rangers) with a billboard near KeyBank Center in Buffalo. The billboard, in Rangers colors, reads, “Aren’t trade requests a pain in the neck? #FreeJack”. It refers to Eichel’s well-publicized standoff with Sabres management and medical staff regarding treatment for a herniated disc in his neck.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Scene: A headshot of Jack Eichel. Narrator: “Blueshirts Breakaway got their wish but it wasn’t the result they expected.” The camera pulls back revealing Eichel wearing an Anaheim Ducks jersey. Cue end music and credits.
The 2021 NHL Draft begins tonight, the league releases its 2021-22 schedule, Shea Weber’s career is likely over due to injuries, the Flyers send Shayne Gostisbehere to the Coyotes, the Hurricanes trade Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings, plus much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.com: The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft gets underway at 8 pm ET tonight. Rounds two through seven will be held on Saturday. Like last year, it will be a virtual draft.
The 2021 NHL Draft begins on Friday, July 23. (NHL.com).
The Buffalo Sabres hold the first-overall pick. University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is ranked this year’s top prospect but there’s no guarantee he’ll be selected by the Sabres. Power intends to return to university this fall but Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said that won’t affect his club’s decision. The Seattle Kraken holds the second-overall selection with the Anaheim Ducks holds the third.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Check out my 2021 NHL mock draft of the first round for Bleacher Report. I predict Power will be selected by the Sabres.
The NHL also unveiled its 82-game schedule for 2021-22. The season will begin Tuesday, Oct. 12 with the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning while the expansion Seattle Kraken plays their first-ever NHL game as they visit the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken’s first home game is Oct. 23 as they host the Vancouver Canucks
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he doesn’t expect team captain Shea Weber to play next season, adding the defenseman’s career is probably over because of injuries he tried to play through in recent years.
Bergevin confirmed goaltender Carey Price is in New York having his knee and hip examined with the possibility his knee could require surgery with a possible recovery period of 6-8 weeks. He also said he expects winger Jonathan Drouin will return to the team for training camp in September. Drouin took a season-ending leave of absence in March to deal with a personal matter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin anticipates the league will allow him to place Weber ($7.8 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve for 2021-22. That would provide the Canadiens GM the flexibility to exceed the $81.5 million salary cap by the equivalent of Weber’s cap hit if necessary.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes acquired defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere plus a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers without sending anything back in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was purely a cost-cutting move by the Flyers to shed Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million annual cap hit. “Ghost Bear” struggled over the past two years and could benefit from a change of scenery.
This is the second deal involving the Coyotes where they acquired a player and draft picks without sending anything the other way. They recently swung a deal with the New York Islanders for Andrew Ladd and three picks. As with the Gostisbehere deal, it was done by the Isles to clear some cap room.
The Flyers and Islanders paid a price to get those contracts off their books by giving up those draft picks to the Coyotes. Gostisbehere remains a decent NHL player and is expected to be part of the Coyotes roster next season. Ladd’s spent most of the past two seasons in the minors and could do so again in 2021-22.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings acquired goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for goalie Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick in this year’s draft. Nedeljkovic signed a two-year contract with the Wings worth an annual average value of $3 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move baffled most observers. Nedeljkovic is a promising young netminder and a Calder Trophy finalist this season. However, it appears the Hurricanes front office wasn’t that enamored with his overall performance. Rather than face a possible salary arbitration battle, they opted to trade him to the Wings.
It’s believed the Hurricanes will seek a suitable replacement via trade or free agency. Nevertheless, this could backfire on them if Nedeljkovic goes on to a solid NHL career with the Wings.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed forward Barclay Goodrow to a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.642 million. The deal also includes signing bonuses and a 15-team no-trade list. Goodrow was recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The cap hit is reasonable but the term seems long for a player of Goodrow’s caliber. The 28-year-old is a solid third-line forward but comparable players usually get three or four-year deals at most. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll receive $5 million in actual salary in 2023-24 and $5.1 million in 2024-25.
TSN: A former Chicago Blackhawks player described his alleged sexual assault by the club’s former video coach Bradley Aldrich in a recent court filing.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The attorney handling two negligence lawsuits against the Blackhawks said one of her clients was bullied by several Blackhawks teammates after he accused Aldrich of sexually assaulting him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman yesterday said he would cooperate with the internal investigation conducted by the legal team hired by the club. The Tribune reports he declined to comment on the specifics of the review or the events in 2010 citing the pending lawsuits.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames acquired forward Tyler Pitlick from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2022.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks re-signed Rudolfs Balcers to a two-year, $3.1 million contract.
CAP FRIENDLY: The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed center Gemel Smith to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. The first year is a two-way deal with Smith earning $750K at the NHL level.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Kiefer Sherwood to a one-year deal.
NHLPA: Matt Calvert announced his retirement from the NHL after 10 seasons due to a career-ending injury. He played 566 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche, tallying 203 career points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Calvert in his future endeavors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks, Rangers and Kings have plenty of promising assets and the cap space to swing a deal for Eichel. Whether they’re willing to pay the hefty price in terms of his expensive contract and the return to the Sabres (an equivalent of four first-rounders) is another story. The ongoing uncertainty over his neck injury remains a serious sticking point for every potential suitor.
The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported last month the Wild had preliminary talks with the Sabres. He indicated general manager Bill Guerin could be reluctant to mortgage his club’s future. Guerin also has to get Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala under contract.
Cap space isn’t an issue for the Bruins but their focus is on adding a top-four, left-side defenseman. They’re in talks with pending UFA winger Taylor Hall and could bring back Tuukka Rask and David Krejci on short-term deals for one more run at the Stanley Cup. They also don’t have enough tradeable assets to meet the Sabres’ high asking price.
Absorbing Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit would be a problem for the Flames and Golden Knights. Like the Bruins, they lack sufficient depth in promising assets to outbid the others on Friedman’s list.
I’m not saying Eichel won’t be traded or won’t end up on one of those teams. I’m merely pointing out that it’s going to take considerable work to pull it off, especially if the Sabres are reluctant to lower their asking price or absorb a portion of his salary.
KEITH TRADE BETWEEN BLACKHAWKS AND OILERS FALLING APART?
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (NHL Images).
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli said the Blackhawks don’t want to retain any portion of Keith’s $5.53 million annual cap hit. The Oilers’ interest has waned and they’ve pulled back on the assets they were willing to send to Chicago in return. Seravalli believes Caleb Jones was part of it. He also said the Oilers have tabled a “take it or leave it” offer and there’s only a certain price they’ll pay if the Blackhawks won’t retain salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like Oilers general manager Ken Holland is taking a firm approach here. He’s under no pressure to acquire Keith. The Oilers could use a second-pairing left-side defenseman but they can find more affordable options if the Hawks won’t retain salary. There’s also no indication the Hawks will take on someone like James Neal or Mikko Koskinen for the purpose of buying them out. If the Blackhawks won’t bend, this deal falls apart.
MORE NOTABLE RUMORS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST 31 THOUGHTS
The Philadelphia Flyers and Jakub Voracek have discussed that it might be time for a change. The 31-year-old winger was told he’ll be left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft.
If the Seattle Kraken doesn’t select him, the Flyers will look elsewhere. Voracek has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million. There’s also a chance they can’t move him via trade and he stays put.
Friedman also reported the Seth Jones-to-Philadelphia trade discussions are off for now. They can’t get the commitment they want from the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Voracek’s still an effective top-six winger. He lacks no-trade protection but his cap hit will dampen his trade value unless the Flyers pick up part of it or take back an equivalent salary. Perhaps a three-team deal can be made involving draft picks to spread that cap hit around.
If Jones is unwilling to sign an extension with an acquiring team it could kill his value in the trade market. Teams are definitely interested but they don’t want to part with assets on a player who could depart next summer as a free agent.
Friedman wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes will qualify the rights of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic over concerns of what he might get via arbitration. Same thing with winger Warren Foegele.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Hurricanes don’t qualify their rights they become unrestricted free agents on July 28. They would lose both players to other teams for nothing, though they’d probably try to trade them before then. Nedeljkovic was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy and would draw considerable attention in the UFA market.
Friedman took note of Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin acknowledging how tough the past year was for him mentally and his intention to honor the final year of his contract. He wondered if Bergevin might move into a President of Hockey Operations role with the Canadiens after next season while Scott Mellanby or Martin Lapointe takes over as GM.
Canadiens center Phillip Danault confirmed turning down a long-term extension prior to this season. Friedman believes the two sides were $500K to $750K per season apart. Bergevin indicated he hopes Danault remains with the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The statuses of Bergevin and Danault will be the hot topics for the Montreal media in the coming weeks. Danault is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. It’ll be interesting to see if the Canadiens increase their previous six-year, $30 million offer or if Danault will test the market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had an interest in Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi until the 26-year-old left winger suffered a season-ending injury. Pending UFA winger Zach Hyman probably won’t be back with the Leafs. The Red Wings could be among Hyman’s suitors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Leafs will revisit that interest in Bertuzzi if he’s fully recovered from his back surgery. He is a restricted free agent who exceeded 45 points in consecutive seasons prior to this year. He’ll be costly to the Leafs in terms of salary and return to the Wings if the latter intends to part with him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings were in the market for two top-six wingers in the trade market, preferably in their late-20s with some term left on their contracts. Saad and Schwartz are in the right age group but they’re due to become UFAs by July 28. The Kings might be interested but perhaps on deals for no more than four years.
A five-point performance by the Islanders Mathew Barzal, three more Canucks games are postponed by COVID-19 protocols, division stars and rookie of the month for March are announced, Nathan MacKinnon fined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Mathew Barzal’s hat trick carried the New York Islanders to an 8-4 romp over the Washington Capitals. Barzal finished with five points while teammate Jordan Eberle scored twice. John Carlson tallied twice for the Capitals, who lost goaltender Ilya Samsonov early in the first period following an accidental collision with teammate T.J. Oshie. The Islanders are tied with the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins with 50 points but the Capitals remain in first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of a game in hand.
New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).
The Penguins, meanwhile, rode a 30-save performance by goaltender Casey DeSmith to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pittsburgh forward Branden Tanev returned to the lineup after missing six games and picked up an assist. The Penguins have won five straight but sit in third place behind the Islanders as the latter has two more regulation wins. Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo left the game with an upper-body injury. The Bruins sit fourth in the vision with 41 points, three ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
Speaking of the Rangers, they edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad. Artemi Panarin collected two assists for the Blueshirts while Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski kicked out 44 shots. The Rangers are tied with the Flyers with 38 points but the latter holds fifth place with a game in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The East division is getting quite interesting. The Penguins have surged to jockey with the Capitals and Islanders for first place, the Bruins are clinging to fourth place but are being threatened by the Rangers, who could soon surpass the struggling Flyers.
Third-period goals by Ross Colton and Brayden Point 66 seconds apart lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. Point had two goals on the night while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 36 shots. Zach Werenski had a goal and an assist for the Jackets. With 52 points, the Lightning holds onto first place in the Discover Central Division. The Jackets (36 points) remain in sixth place in the division, three points back of the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
An overtime goal by Alex Wennberg gave the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal and collected an assist on Wennberg’s winner. The Panthers also have 52 points but remain in second place in the Central as the Lightning hold a game in hand.
The Carolina Hurricanes got a late goal by Jesper Fast to nip Chicago 4-3 and sit one point behind the Lightning and Panthers. Warren Foegele tallied twice for the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks remain tied with Nashville with 39 points but the latter holds fourth place in the Central on the basis of regulation wins.
As for the Predators, they missed an opportunity to open a lead over the Blackhawks as their six-game win streak ended in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski collected two assists for the Stars (34 points), who sit five behind the Predators and Blackhawks.
A shootout goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Minnesota Wild past the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-2. Cam Talbot had a 35-save performance while Kirill Kapizov had a goal and an assist for the Wild (46 points), who moved within four points of second-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche each have 50 points but the latter holds first place because of regulation wins.
The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 as Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault each had a goal and an assist. Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Habs, who hold a six-point lead for fourth place over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks with 41 points.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is the star of the month for March in the Discover Central Division. Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer is the Honda West star of the month. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took home the honor for the MassMutual East Division while Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the Scotia North Division star for March.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March 2021.
The Vancouver Canucks have had three additional games postponed as forwards Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic and a member of the coaching staff were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudette and his wife faced some flak on social media by several folks alleging they failed to properly protect themselves from COVID-19. In fact, the couple followed all guidelines and were informed they did nothing wrong by the team and health officials. The Gaudettes have no idea how they caught the coronavirus and don’t deserve being hounded by some ill-informed fans.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon received a $5,000.00 fine from the NHL department of player safety for unsportsmanlike conduct against Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland on Wednesday.
Vegas Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson received a three-game suspension for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot on Wednesday.
NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux requested a trade from the Rangers prior to their dealing him last week to the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round pick. Lemieux made the request as he wanted to play for a team where he’d have a more meaningful role. He’d been seeing fourth-line duty this season with the Rangers.
THE SCORE: Roberto Luongo is expected to be named general manager of Team Canada’s 2021 World Championship team.
SPORTSNET: Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield, Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay and North Dakota forward Shane Pinto are this year’s finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Caufield recently signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens while Pinto inked a similar deal with the Ottawa Senators.