NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

The Leafs face an interesting summer after another first-round exit plus the latest Seth Jones speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LEAFS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes Toronto Maple Leafs management shouldn’t panic and make any rash moves following yet another first-round playoff exit. He points to how the Washington Capitals got sent into “a philosophical crisis” for several seasons after falling to another underdog Montreal Canadiens squad in 2010.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner become a trade candidate this summer? (NHL Images)

Wyshynski feels the Leafs’ window of opportunity remains wide open. He suggests they rethink their supporting cast by opting instead for players with speed, rather than bring in those with experience as they did this season. He also proposes they look to this summer’s trade and free-agent markets for someone to share the goalie duties with Jack Campbell.

Of their eight unrestricted free agents, Wyshynski believes they’ll bring back Zach Hyman given his contributions to the first line.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox wondered where the Leafs go from here. He thinks forwards Hyman and Jason Spezza are worth re-signing, as well as defenseman Zach Bogosian if he’d accept another one-year, $1 million contract. They could lose center Alex Kerfoot to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.

If the affordable Campbell ($1.65 million) remains their starting goalie, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas will have sufficient cap space to assemble a new supporting cast around their star players.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel doesn’t see the Leafs trading Auston Matthews. John Tavares’ no-movement clause takes him off the table as well. That leaves Mitch Marner and William Nylander. While both would fetch considerable returns, they would be difficult to replace on the roster.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt wonders what the future holds for former San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton after his quest to win the Stanley Cup this year with the Leafs fell short. Thornton turns 42 on July 2 and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Witt wonders if he’ll retire or return for a 24th NHL season. If he can’t land with another Cup contender, perhaps he’d consider returning to the Sharks if they approached him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Wyshynski. Leafs management must avoid overreacting in this situation. They still have a talented core of mostly young talent to reload around and try again next season. They should build up the speed and skill among their forwards and defense, and bring in a reliable backup for Campbell.

Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have almost $69 million invested in 14 players next season. They’ll get an additional $3.5 million if Kerfoot is selected by the Kraken. Should re-sign Hyman, Spezza and Bogosian to affordable deals, they’ll still have to go bargain hunting to address their needs through trades and free agency.

Trading Marner or Nylander could help to address some of the Leafs roster needs. As Siegel pointed out, however, moving either guy will create another roster issue to address.

Thornton has probably played his final NHL game. His lack of speed was apparent against the Canadiens and I don’t think he can be effective over a full 82-game schedule. I understand his desire to win a Stanley Cup, but I don’t see him landing with a contender now. I also doubt the Sharks will bring him back for a last hurrah after seeing how diminished Patrick Marleau was this season.

LATEST SETH JONES SPECULATION

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin examined several possible trade destinations for Seth Jones after the defenseman informed the Columbus Blue Jackets he intends to test next summer’s free-agent market.

He feels the best hockey fits would be the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Winnipeg Jets, with the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils as possible sleepers. The Los Angeles Kings could be the best all-around fit for Jones, though he plays the same side on defense as Drew Doughty.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports two clubs reached out to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen after the news broke over the weekend of Jones’ intentions. He expects Kekalainen to receive a flood of calls this week from other clubs. The Kings could be the early favorite. Portzline expects the Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens could be major players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An elite defenseman available in the trade market doesn’t happen every summer. Jones will draw plenty of interest but it’ll come down to which teams have the depth in tradeable assets and the cap space to potentially sign him to a new contract. Indeed, Jones’ willingness to sign an extension with the acquiring club could be the key factor determining his trade destination.

The Kings certainly seem the best fit in that regard but they could prefer adding a top-four left-side defenseman unless Doughty or Jones is willing to play second-pairing minutes. The Blackhawks would have the cap room once they work out the long-term injury reserve gymnastics for all-but-retired Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw.

The Canadiens have plenty of draft picks, prospects and promising youngsters to draw upon for trade bait but I don’t see them pursuing him unless he commits to a long-term extension. With over $69 million invested in 18 players, they can afford his current $5.4 million cap hit but it would leave them overcrowded on the right side with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry already there.










NHL Playoffs: Maple Leafs Blank Canadiens 4-0, Take 3-1 Series Stranglehold

NHL Playoffs: Maple Leafs Blank Canadiens 4-0, Take 3-1 Series Stranglehold

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 10, 2021

Game recaps, the latest on Zach Werenski, Bobby Ryan and William Nylander, the Avalanche reacquire Patrik Nemeth, the Leafs deal for Riley Nash, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied career goal 727 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz had a goal and two assists. Ovechkin is four goals shy of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne for fifth on the NHL’s all-time goals list. The Capitals are tied with the New York Islanders with 56 points but hold first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of regulation wins (21).

The Islanders, meanwhile, dropped a 4-1 decision to the New York Rangers. Alexandar Georgiev made 31 saves for the win in his first start in 11 games while teammate Adam Fox’s point streak ended at 12 games. Blueshirts winger Artemi Panarin collected two assists.

PIttsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).

Sidney Crosby scored and added two helpers to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New Jersey Devils 6-4. Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust scored two goals and chipped in an assist while Devils winger Miles Wood tallied twice. The Penguins have won seven of their last nine contests and sit two points behind the second-place Islanders.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonas Johansson made 28 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 2-0 blanking of the Anaheim Ducks. Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantanen were the goal scorers as Colorado won their sixth game in their last seven outings. They canceled their practice earlier in the day after Bo Byram was placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list. The Avs sit atop the Honda West Division with 58 points.

A four-goal first period powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 7-4 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Reilly Smith scored two goals for the Golden Knights, who remain four points back of the Avalanche in second place. Phil Kessel collected three assists for Arizona and took over sole possession of fifth place on the NHL’s Ironman list by skating in his 885th consecutive game. The Coyotes are in fourth place with 43 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel is quite durable for someone who is sometimes mocked because his physical appearance isn’t that of a prototypical NHL player. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.

St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly tallied a hat trick in a 9-1 thumping of the Minnesota Wild. Jaden Schwartz scored twice while Justin Faulk and Sammy Blais each had a goal and two assists. The Blues moved within one point of the Coyotes while the Wild remain in third place with 50 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues made winger Mike Hoffman a healthy scratch for the second straight game. He’s among the top names being bandied about the NHL rumor mill and could be on the move before Monday’s trade deadline.

Brent Burns collected three assists and Martin Jones made 32 saves as the San Jose Sharks downed the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. The surging Sharks sit three back of the Coyotes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The race for that final playoff berth in the West is getting interesting. The Coyotes are trying to hang on, the Blues are battling to overcome a recent season-threatening losing skid while the Sharks are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive.

HEADLINES

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski will undergo season-ending sports hernia surgery next week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A difficult season for the Blue Jackets just got a lot worse with their best puck-moving defenseman on the shelf. This could be the last nail in the coffin for their playoff hopes.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Bobby Ryan appears to be done for the season after suffering an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ryan was expected to draw some interest in the trade market leading up to Monday’s deadline. Nagging injuries have plagued the 34-year-old winger throughout this season.

ESPN: The Nashville Predators placed winger Filip Forsberg on injured reserve and announced winger Eeli Tolvanen (lower body) and defenseman Dante Fabbro (upper body) are week-to-week. Right wing Mathieu Olivier will be sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators surged into playoff contention in recent weeks in the Discover Central Division. This latest rash of injuries could threaten their efforts to clinch a postseason berth.

TSN: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said many of his 21 players who tested positive for COVID-19 are feeling better. He expects his club will be able to complete its 56-game schedule, adding none of his players want to opt-out of the remainder of the season. Benning anticipates most of his players will be back on the ice once the team receives clearance to reopen its practice facility.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield is the 2021 winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in US college hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield celebrated by scoring two goals in his pro debut as the Laval Rocket downed the Toronto Marlies 5-3 in AHL action on Friday.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs acquired center Riley Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nash is sidelined for four-to-six weeks with a sprained knee. However, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas can place him and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve, giving them the flexibility to perhaps make another move before Monday’s trade deadline. A clever move by Dubas, who’s done this sort of thing in the past to provide himself some much-needed cap relief. Nash will also join the Leafs for the playoffs.

TORONTO STAR: Speaking of the Leafs, winger William Nylander will be sidelined for a week on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche reacquired defenseman Patrik Nemeth from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick. Nemeth spent two seasons with the Avalanche (2017 to 2019). The Wings are also retaining half of his $3 million salary-cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche also have $5.4 million in cap wiggle room with Erik Johnson and Pavel Francouz on LTIR. GM Joe Sakic might not be done dealing as concern remains over the Avs’ goaltending depth.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils placed winger Nikita Gusev on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent if he clears at noon ET today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gusev had a promising NHL debut with 44 points in 66 games last season but struggled under head coach Lindy Ruff this season and has just five points in 20 games. The 27-year-old winger might regain his scoring touch with another club.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres claimed forward Drake Caggiula off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Players: Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 5

NHL Players: Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 5

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

The 2020-21 schedule is released, Nikita Kucherov sidelined for the season, plus a roundup of the latest notable signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league released the schedule for the 2020-21 season. It begins on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2020 Stanley Cup championship banner before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.

The other four games see the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, and the St. Louis Blues tangling with the Colorado Avalanche.

The league also announced the postponement of the 2021 Stadium Series slated for Feb. 20, 2021, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hip surgery will sideline Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All timings for those games have yet to be announced. Those will likely be revealed after the locations for the Canadian games are determined.

TSN reported last night the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams released a letter calling for increased testing of players, staff and close contacts as well as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. The other option is reinstating a bubble model similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the league and the NHLPA aren’t keen to implement.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has hip surgery scheduled for next week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season. The club hopes to have him back in time for the 2021 playoffs beginning in May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a big blow to the Lightning’s scoring punch but they will receive $9.5 million in salary cap relief by placing the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner on long-term injury reserve. That should free up sufficient cap space to sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a cost-cutting deal. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

The Lightning also signed forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov to short-term, one-way contracts. Joseph inked a two-year deal worth $1.475 million while Volkov inked a one-year, $700K deal.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable deal for the Devils. Blackwood will be their starting goaltender entering this season. A solid performance on his part over the course of this deal will ensure more lucrative terms on his next contract.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators signed forward Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing comes on the heels of the Predators bringing back winger Mikael Granlund. It’s a good, cost-effective depth addition. Haula has an injury history but when healthy is a speedy, versatile two-way forward with a decent scoring touch who can skate on the wing or at center.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Goaltender Ryan Miller is returning for another season with the Anaheim Ducks, inking a one-year contract worth $1 million. He’s served as their backup netminder for the past three seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Miller and his family live in the Anaheim area and he doesn’t want to relocate at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens added more experienced depth to their forward links by signing winger Michael Frolik to a one-year, $750K contract.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Casey Mittelstadt to a one-year contract worth just over $874K.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers inked goaltender Sam Montembault to a one-year, two-way deal.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach suffered an apparent injury to his right wrist during Canada’s 1-0 win over Russia in a tune-up game for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Dach left the game, underwent X-rays and is undergoing other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander recently underwent knee surgery and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six months.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks hired Jason King as their new assistant coach and Chris Higgins as their new skills and development coach.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

Some recent Leafs speculation and a look at Dougie Hamilton’s contract situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what might happen if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs or are eliminated in the opening round. He believes team president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe should be granted one more shot in 2021-22. However, it could spell the end of the “Core Four” of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox noted Dubas has resisted breaking up that core, pointing out the moves made during this offseason doesn’t project a sense of hot-seat panic. Nevertheless, a shakeup could be in store if the Leafs make another early playoff exit or miss the postseason entirely.

Matthews, Tavares and Marner each earn over $10.8 million annually. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. It could be difficult moving one of them under a flattened cap for 2021-22, Nylander could be the more likely trade chip. His annual average value ($6.96 million) is more affordable and he lacks no-trade protection.

Fox believes the Leafs are done for the offseason. He doesn’t rule out professional tryout offers (PTO), noting Dubas said he’s open to anything. However, the club’s lack of cap space makes it unlikely they’ll sign another UFA or go the PTO route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are above the $81.5 million cap by just over $1 million according to Cap Friendly. They have no room for other additions unless Dubas acquires a player on permanent long-term injury reserve for additional salary-cap wiggle room or makes a cost-cutting trade.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes Dougie Hamilton’s next contract is among several big decisions facing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021. GM Don Waddell is interested in negotiating a new deal with him before the start of the season.

O’Brien speculates Hamilton will want security after being traded twice. While the 27-year-old rearguard could find next year’s UFA market challenging, O’Brien notes high-end defensemen like Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug received lucrative deals this year. Even lesser blueliners like Chris Tanev, Dylan DeMelo and Joel Edmundson were among those receiving significant terms.

The Hurricanes must also re-sign rising star Andrei Svechnikov plus goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek will become UFAs next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable that Waddell would be interested in signing Hamilton before this season opens. The puck-moving blueliner is in the final season of a six-year deal with an AAV of $5.75 million. Hamilton was in the running for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg. Another Norris-worthy performance in 2020-21 could push his asking price to between $8 – $9 million annually.

The Hurricanes have over $52 million invested in 12 players for 2020-21. Big raises for Hamilton and Svechnikov could use up a combined $15 million. Given the uncertainty over next season and another flattened salary cap, the Hurricanes might not spend to the ceiling for 2021-22. The longer Hamilton goes unsigned, the more his name will surface in the rumor mill during 2020-21.