NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 8, 2021

Elvis Merzlikins talks about his offseason and his plans for the coming season, the Senators re-sign GM Pierre Dorion plus updates on Charlie McAvoy, Gustav Nyquist, Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: In an interview with Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins spoke about the tragic death of teammate and close friend Matiss Kivlinieks and the birth of his son Knox Matiss Merzlikins during the offseason. Kivlinieks’ loss has given Merzlkins motivation to win the Vezina Trophy.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (NHL Images).

I don’t want to make any promise, but I can tell you, Aaron…my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy. I’m gonna win a f*****g Vezina for him.”

Merzlikins credits Kivlinieks with saving the life of his family when his late friend was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar on July 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins will be jockeying for the starter’s job with Joonas Korpisalo. He said he and Korpisalo have a good relationship and understood the duo could split the playing time this season. A Vezina-worthy performance by Merzlikins, however, will ensure he gets the bulk of the starts and could help the Blue Jackets rebound from a lousy performance last season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed general manager Pierre Dorion to a three-year contract extension through 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has done a good job handling the Senators’ rebuild. He drafted young core talent such as Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Drake Batherson and acquired Josh Norris. Promising prospects such as Jake Sanderson, Tyler Boucher, Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker are also in their pipeline.

The Senators showed real signs of improvement last season. They’ll attempt to build on that with those youngsters playing key roles.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and his agent aren’t concerned over the lack of contract extension talks. “I’m just really excited for the year, just worrying about this summer, being in the best spot to be ready for camp,” said McAvoy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. Both sides are probably willing to wait and see how this season pans out before engaging in serious contract discussions. Given how much defensemen such as Colorado’s Cale Makar, Chicago’s Seth Jones, and Edmonton’s Darnell got this summer, I daresay McAvoy’s next contract will average over $9 million per season.

NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist is looking forward to the coming season after missing the entire 2020-21 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery.

THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen signed a one-year contract with KHL club Spartak Moscow. The Canucks released the 25-year-old forward this summer following an allegation of sexual misconduct against the former first-round pick.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks hired John MacLean as an assistant coach. He replaces Rocky Thompson, who stepped down last week due to medical reasons preventing him from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken signed defenseman Dennis Cholowski to a one-year, two-way contract worth $900K at the NHL level.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Simon Gagne, Paul Holmgren, Bob Kelly, Lou Nolan, Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet are the six finalists for inductions into the Flyers Hall of Fame. A voting committee will make the final selection and the induction ceremony will be held during a game this season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 18, 2021

Patrick Marleau ties Gordie Howe’s games-played record, Alex Ovechkin moves closer to another scoring milestone, Connor McDavid hits new scoring heights for this season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Patrick Marleau tied Gordie Howe’s record of 1,767 NHL games played as his San Jose Sharks fell to the Minnesota Wild 5-2. Marleau can break Howe’s record when the Sharks face the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. Minnesota’s Mats Zuccarello had a goal and an assist while Zach Parise tallied the game-winner as the Wild (57 points) moved to within five points of the second-place Golden Knights in the Honda West Division.

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a remarkable streak of longevity on Marleau’s part. His NHL career began in October 1997, spending over 20 of his 23 seasons with the Sharks. This season, however, is likely to be his last as the 41-year-old has just 8 points in 44 games. We should take the time to appreciate his career while he’s still playing.

For those of you unhappy over a supposedly “lesser player” breaking the great Howe’s NHL games record, console yourself with the fact that Howe’s record of playing five decades in the NHL remains intact. Factor in Howe’s 419 WHA games, and he remains the all-time leader in professional games played with 2,186.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2. Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 20 saves and Michael Bunting netted the game-winner. With the win, the Coyotes (45 points) vault one point over the Blues into fourth in the West.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was an emotional win for the Coyotes as they inducted Leighton Accardo, a Coyotes fan who died last November at age 9 from cancer, into their Ring of Honor. With his team down by two goals, Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson guaranteed a win during a first-intermission interview. He and his teammates delivered on that promise.

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals and John Carlsson collected four assists to lead the Washington Capitals to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Ovechkin is now one goal behind Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth place on the all-time goal-scoring list. The Capitals sit in first place in the MassMutual East Division with 62 points while the Flyers (46 points) are eight points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins. Flyers goaltender Carter Hart was scratched just prior to the game with a lower-body injury.

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their points streak to five games by holding off the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Tristan Jarry made 28 saves and Bryan Rust netted the game-winning goal as the Penguins (59 points) move one point ahead of the New York Islanders into second place in the East. The Sabres became the first team to be officially eliminated from the playoff race.

Pavel Buchnevich’s hat trick carried the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils 6-3. Artemi Panarin had a goal and three assists for the Rangers, who sit four points behind the Bruins. 

Connor McDavid became the first player to reach 70 points this season by collecting two assists in the Edmonton Oilers’ 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Mike Smith made 26 saves for the shutout as the Oilers (54 points) moved within three points of the second-place Jets in the Scotia North Division.

The Ottawa Senators ruined Carey Price’s return to the Montreal Canadiens net with a 4-0 victory. Price missed six games with a lower-body injury. Ottawa’s Matt Murray turned in a 23-save shutout performance while Drake Batherson scored twice. The Canadien (47 points) still hold a six-point lead over the Calgary Flames for fourth place in the North.

Third-period goals by Janne Hakanpaa and Andrei Svechnikov lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes sit in first place in the Discover Central Division with 62 points, one ahead of the Florida Panthers while the Predators (49 points) hold a two-point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks for fourth place.

The Panthers, meanwhile, defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 to hold a one-point lead over the latter. Sam Bennett collected two assists in his Florida debut while teammate Brandon Montour tallied his first goal with the Panthers.

A 29-save shutout by Malcolm Subban carried the Blackhawks over the Detroit Red Wings 4-0. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist while Vinnie Hinostroza collected three helpers.

The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1, extending the latter’s losing skid to five games. The Stars tallied four second-period goals, including two 20 seconds apart. They sit three points behind the Predators.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo underwent season-ending surgery on Saturday to repair a broken bone in his cheek.

CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist is officially done for the season. He’s been sidelined since undergoing shoulder surgery in November. He’s expected to be fully recovered for next season.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins winger and broadcaster Johnny Peirson passed away at age 95. Peirson spent 11 seasons with the Bruins from 1946-47 to 1957-58. He went on to spend 20 seasons broadcasting Bruins games on WSBK-38 in the 1970s and 1980s.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Peirson’s family, friends, colleagues and former teammates.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 5, 2020

How will the Islanders find cap space to sign Mathew Barzal? How will the Blue Jackets replace sidelined Gustav Nyquist? Check out the latest in the NHL rumor mill.

ISLES MUST SHED SALARY TO SIGN BARZAL

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker reports the Islanders have around $3.9 million in salary-cap space with center Mathew Barzal still to sign. General manager Lou Lamoriello will also find it challenging to bring back unrestricted free agents Matt Martin and Andy Greene and to add goaltender Cory Schneider.

Don’t expect the New York Islanders to buy out Jordan Eberle to alleviate their cap crunch (NHL Images).

Pulock filing for arbitration provides the Isles with a second buyout window that opens for 24 hours on Friday. However, they can only buy out a player earning an annual average value of over $4 million, ruling out Leo Komarov and Thomas Hickey as options.

Lamoriello could attempt another cost-cutting trade. It’ll be difficult to find takers for Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) or Andrew Ladd ($5 million AAV) in this economic climate.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin indicates buying out Boychuk or Ladd won’t provide much immediate relief. The way their salaries are structured, a Boychuk buyout would give the Isles $833K in savings for 2020-21 while Ladd’s would be over $666K.

Larkin wondered if Lamoriello could place a player like Ladd on long-term injury reserve. Failing that, he’ll have to dump another salary via trade.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple also weighed in on the Islanders’ options. He indicates Martin, Greene and Schneider already have agreed-upon deals with the club but they’re being kept off the books for now in case Barzal signs an offer sheet.

Lamoriello could take a drastic step like buying out Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey or Nick Leddy but Staple doubts he’ll go that far. He also doubts Barzal will get $10 million annually from the Isles unless Lamoriello can find a taker for Boychuk and at least one other contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple believes Lamoriello will have to get creative given how the trade market has dried up and the complications of going the LTIR route. He has a well-earned reputation for creativity when it comes to finding wiggle room under the cap, but this situation will still be a significant challenge.

Leddy has surfaced as a trade candidate. He’s under 30, doesn’t have a long injury history like Boychuk and Ladd, lacks no-trade protection and carries an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. With Devon Toews shipped to Colorado last month in a cost-cutting deal, it’s unlikely Lamoriello parts with Leddy now.

He could try to move Komarov ($3 million AAV through 2021-22, seven-team no-trade list) and Hickey ($2.5 million AAV, lacks no-trade protection. Both could be easier to move than Boychuk and Ladd, though it will still be challenging drumming up interest for either guy.

HOW WILL THE JACKETS REPLACE NYQUIST?

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets might pursue Mike Hoffman now that winger Gustav Nyquist is sidelined five-to-six months following shoulder surgery. Losing Nyquist is a big blow for the low-scoring Jackets, who still haven’t suitably replaced the offense lost when Artemi Panarin departed via free agency to the New York Rangers last year.

Larkin acknowledged adding Hoffman won’t make the Jackets a Stanley Cup contender, but it would provide a much-needed injection of offense. He’s the type of player who can score given the opportunity at five-on-five or on the power play, which he’ll certainly get with the Jackets.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t a big fan of free agency. Instead, he’s expected to continue to play the waiting game with the handful of cap-strapped NHL clubs in the hope one of them will be willing to trade away a quality player on the cheap.

Portzline also examined internal options for the Jackets. They could slide Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner into left wing on the second line. Nyquist’s absence could also create an opportunity for rookie Liam Foudy to skate on the third line with Mikko Koivu and either Foligno or Jenner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets still have to sign first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois. With over $12 million in cap space, however, they’ve got sufficient room to do that and to find a suitable short-term replacement for Nyquist.

Hoffman is the best choice in the UFA market. He’d prefer a long-term contract but recent reports indicated he’d accept a one-year deal worth $6 million. That’s probably too rich for Kekalainen’s blood. He could be keeping an eye on the Lightning to see if he can land Tyler Johnson or Alex Killorn.

As with his efforts to sign Dubois, Kekalainen can afford to remain patient. He might not move on finding Nyquist’s replacement until training camp, which could be at least two months away.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 5, 2020

The Islanders avoid arbitration with Ryan Pulock, Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist has shoulder surgery, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: The New York Islanders avoided arbitration with Ryan Pulock as the 26-year-old defenseman agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract. The annual average value is $5 million, but Pulock will earn $3.34 million in actual salary this season and $6.66 million in 2021-22.

New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pulock will be an unrestricted free agent in two years’ time. He’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next contract.

Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Islanders with $3.9 million in cap space with Mathew Barzal still to sign. That’s raising speculation over what general manager Lou Lamoriello will do to free up cap space for Barzal. I’ll have more about that later this morning in the Rumors section.

SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist underwent surgery on his left shoulder. His anticipated recovery period is five-to-six months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nyquist’s absence is a big hit for the Blue Jackets’ anemic offense. He finished second among Jackets’ scorers last season in assists (27) and points (42) and fourth in goals with 15.

That’s sparked conjecture over how they’ll offset Nyquist’s absence. You can read about that later this morning in the Rumors section.

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reported the New York Rangers have asked an arbitrator for a two-year contract in Brendan Lemieux’s case at $950K and $1.075 million. Lemieux seeks $2 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: His hearing is slated for Nov. 6.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year, two-way contract with an annual average value of $725K.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed defenseman William Lagesson to a two-year contract worth $725K annually. It’s a two-way deal during the first season.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins promoted director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin to assistant general manager.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild extended their ECHL affiliation with the Allen Americans for 2020-21.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2020

Recaps of the final day of exhibition games, including updates on Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, John Carlson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: First-period goals by Boone Jenner, Zach Werenski, and Gustav Nyquist powered the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Nyquist finished with two points while teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand collected two assists.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask gave up three goals on 20 shots before being replaced by Jaroslav Halak. Teammate Brad Marchand left the game in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury following a hit on Werenski. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy will provide an update today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins appeared rusty in this contest, but they’ll have plenty of time to sharpen their play during the seeding round-robin before the opening round of the playoffs. The Jackets, meanwhile, showed how much better they can be when they have a mostly healthy roster, something they didn’t have for long stretches in the regular season.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

Reilly Smith scored two goals and Marc-Andre Fleury went the distance with a 22-save performance to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Alex Tuch’s highlight-reel goal put the game out of reach. Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz left the game in the second period following a heavy check from Vegas winger Ryan Reaves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reaves’ arm made contact with Schmaltz’s head during that hit. No word yet if the league’s department of player discipline will be looking at this. It’s interesting that Robin Lehner didn’t split the goalie duties with Fleury. Perhaps he’ll get the start in the Golden Knights’ first game in the round-robin on Monday. 

Viktor Arvidsson scored twice while Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne combined for a 26-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Dallas Stars 2-0. Stars center Tyler Seguin was scratched from the lineup (unfit to play), while forward Andrew Cogliano left the game in the second period favoring his left leg following a collision with Predators defenseman Yannick Weber.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin is expected to be ready for the round-robin starting Aug. 3 against the Golden Knights. No update was provided on Cogliano’s status.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals defenseman John Carlson didn’t practice yesterday after missing the final half of the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Carlson crashed awkwardly into the boards and was removed from the game as a precautionary measure. Head coach Todd Reirden expects the blueliner will return to practice on Saturday.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson took part in special teams’ practice yesterday. He’s still recovering from a knee injury suffered during the regular season. Johnsson isn’t expected in the lineup when the Leafs face off against the Blues Jackets on Sunday in Game 1 of their qualifying-round series.

THE AHL.COM: American Hockey League president and CEO Scott Howson announced a revised start date of Dec. 4 for their 2020-21 season. Details of their full schedule have yet to be determined.










Blue Jackets in Reset Mode Following Free Agent Exodus

Blue Jackets in Reset Mode Following Free Agent Exodus