NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2023
Updates on the Golden Knights and Panthers following the Stanley Cup Final, Jason Spezza joins the Penguins, the Blue Jackets hire Niklas Backstrom, Henri Richard posthumously diagnosed with CTE and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
STANLEY CUP FINAL WRAPUP
NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo celebrated his club’s Stanley Cup victory with his four-year-old daughter Evelyn. He revealed that he was ready to give up his playing career six months ago as Evelyn battled encephalitis in November, stripping her of her motor skills.
Pietrangelo took time off from the Golden Knights to be with Evelyn for however long it took for her recovery. Fortunately, she responded well to treatment and he returned to the Golden Knights in Dec. 17 following a nine-game absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will take months before Evelyn has fully recuperated but she appears to be well on her way toward a complete recovery.
DAILY FACEOFF: Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault received 13 of 18 first-place votes for the Conn Smythe Trophy from the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). Teammate Jack Eichel received the other five votes.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights Stanley Cup parade and rally will take place on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip) on Saturday, June 17 at 7 pm local time.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers are disappointed over the way their playoff run ended but they’re determined to become Stanley Cup champions. “We want to be that group that celebrates,” said Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. “I want to say we’ll be back here and we’ll lift the Cup. We will get back to work with this same group and it’ll be fun again.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Salary-cap constraints and the upcoming free-agent market will put a dent into the Panthers roster. The series with Vegas revealed their need to bolster their depth (especially their defense corps) but the roster core remains intact for 2023-24. That will provide a solid group for management to build around but it could take time before they’re back in the Cup Final.
It was also revealed that forward Sam Bennett was playing hurt in the postseason, joining Matthew Tkachuk, Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour and Radko Gudas among their walking wounded. Forward Eetu Luostarinen missed the Stanley Cup Final with a lower-leg injury.
ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reported Montour played with a torn labrum in his shoulder that required surgery. He could be sidelined for three months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Montour undergoes surgery in June he could be recovered before the start of the season in October.
IN OTHER NEWS…
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins named Jason Spezza as their new assistant general manager. Spezza spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a special assistant to then-general manager Kyle Dubas, who is now the Penguins’ president of hockey operations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised that Spezza followed Dubas to Pittsburgh. He resigned from his position with the Leafs following Dubas’ firing as general manager.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets officially named former NHL goaltender Niklas Backstrom as their new goaltending coach. His priority will be to help starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins bounce back from a disastrous performance in 2022-23. He must also help in the development of promising Daniil Tarasov.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Backstrom was rumored to become the Jackets’ new goalie coach for the past several days.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens star Henri Richard was posthumously diagnosed with advanced CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease associated with concussions and repeated head trauma.
Richard played 20 seasons with the Canadiens and won 11 Stanley Cups. He’s the 16th of 17 deceased players found to have CTE, including Bob Probert, Stan Mikita and Ralph Backstrom.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has maintained that there is no proven link between playing competitive hockey and long-term brain trauma.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect Richard’s posthumous CTE diagnosis to change Bettman’s tune. Doing so would open up the league to lawsuits from the families of those deceased players and from living players whose careers were ended by concussion-related injuries.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Hockey Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek traveled to war-torn Ukraine at the country’s request. “I went to support Ukraine and Ukrainian hockey,” said Hasek. “So it can be played this year and next winter so that new halls can be built.” He’s calling on the NHL to help Ukraine rebuild its hockey infrastructure following the end of the current conflict.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The St. Louis Blues hired former NHL defenseman Mike Weber as an assistant coach and Michael Babcock as skills coach. Weber spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Babcock (son of veteran NHL coach Mike Babcock) was a development coach with the Ottawa Senators.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Ethan Bear will undergo shoulder surgery this month. It’s believed his recovery could be four-to-five months. Bear is slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Flyers made qualifying offers to five players, including Noah Cates, Morgan Frost and Cam York.
TSN: The NHL’s first contract buyout window opens on June 15 and runs through June 30 at 5 pm ET.
PUCK PEDIA: The arbitration walk-away number will remain at $4,538,958. Teams can walk away from any arbitration ruling above that rate.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Tickets are on sale for the 2024 NHL Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on Jan. 1, 2024.