NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 4, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 4, 2023

The Stars’ Miro Heiskanen sets his sights on the Norris Trophy, the latest on the Capitals’ Max Pacioretty, Sheldon Keefe’s contract might not be a vote of confidence from Leafs management, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen has his sights set on winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy. “That’s one thing I really want to win,” he said. “I want to be the best defenseman in the NHL”.

Heiskanen, 24, finished seventh in voting for the Norris Trophy last season. He had a career-best 73 points in 79 games with the Stars while logging over 25 minutes of ice time per game. The Stars blueliner felt that he was able to contribute more offensively last season without sacrificing the defensive aspects of his game.

Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (NHL Images).

While Heiskanen wants to be recognized as the league’s top blueliner, he’s not losing sight of the ultimate goal. “I try to help my team win the Stanley Cup, but if there is a chance to win the Norris as well that would be great.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Heiskanen could be a finalist for the Norris this season and over the next several years. The Hockey News’ Carol Schram has him sitting second to Colorado’s Cale Makar among this season’s top-five Norris candidates.

CBS SPORTS: cited NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reporting that Washington Capitals winger Max Pacioretty is not expected to be available for the start of the upcoming season. He could miss the opening month or two of the Capitals’ schedule.

The 34-year-old winger suffered two Achilles tendons since last September, limiting him to just five games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Capitals in July.

DAILY FACEOFF: Mike McKenna believes we shouldn’t view Sheldon Keefe’s recent two-year contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a vote of confidence from management.

McKenna believes Leafs general manager Brad Treliving did the right thing by extending Keefe’s contract. It lifts the pressure from Keefe’s shoulders and allows him to focus on his head coaching duties. However, there’s no certainty that he’ll complete the full tenure of his extension if the Leafs fail to improve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenna pointed out that the deep-pocketed Leafs can afford to eat that two-year extension if Treliving feels a change is needed behind the bench. In his view, Keefe remains on the hot seat this season.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Stefen Rosner doesn’t anticipate the New York Islanders will go the professional tryout offer route to bolster their forward depth for the coming season. He pointed to GM Lou Lamoriello signing Julien Gauthier to a two-year, one-way contract as well as one-year, two-way deals for Karson Kuhlman and Brian Pinho earlier in the summer.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers arena will have a new name for the coming season. It will be called the Amerant Bank Arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not one to pine for the so-called “good old days”, but I miss when arenas weren’t named for businesses or corporations. If you were an NHL fan in the 1970s, you knew who played at the Montreal Forum, Maple Leafs Gardens, the Olympia or The Spectrum. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to remember the names of half of the arenas because they change them so often to cash in on naming rights.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres are reportedly planning to limit the sale of individual game tickets to a certain geographic radius to make it more difficult for fans of nearby opposing teams (especially Toronto Maple Leafs followers) to have a significant presence at Key Bank Center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Previous attempts by the Sabres to limit the number of Leafs and Montreal Canadiens fans in their arena failed. I don’t expect they’ll have much success this time around.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has fully recovered from the shoulder injury that cut short his 2022-23 season. He played 15 games for the Blackhawks last season and hopes to earn a full-time roster spot in training camp.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Former Minnesota North Stars defenseman Brad Maxwell died on Sunday at age 66 after battling an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Drafted seventh overall by the North Stars in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Maxwell spent nearly eight seasons in Minnesota from 1977-78 until traded to the Quebec Nordiques during the 1984-85 season. His best season was in 1983-84 with 73 points in 78 games along with 225 PIMs.

Over the following two seasons, Maxwell played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers before returning to the North Stars to finish his playing career. Following his playing career, he ran a cabinet and construction business and also organized and played charity games with the North Stars alumni.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Maxwell’s family and friends as well as his former teammates and coaches.