NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot, Joe Thornton reaches an assists milestone, Connor McDavid has another multi-point game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in the Scotia North Division to clinch a playoff spot by dropping the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Joe Thorton reached a milestone by collecting his 1,100th career NHL assist while Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 35th goal of the season. The Leafs sit atop the division with 67 points while the Canadiens are in fourth place with 51 points. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced Jonathan Drouin was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is just the seventh player in league history to reach 1,100 assists. Paul Coffey sits in sixth place with 1,135. With 1,524 points, Thornton is only seven behind Coffey (1,531) for 13th on the all-time list.

Drouin’s faced criticism from fans and pundits (myself included) for his play this season. We don’t know why he’s taken this leave of absence and it’s none of our business. Here’s hoping he gets whatever assistance is needed to help him cope with his situation and return to action.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected three assists in a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie each had a goal and an assist as the Oilers (60 points) sit three points ahead of the Jets for second place in the North. The Jets have lost five straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has a league-leading 84 points with nine games left in the season. He’s scoring at a pace not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. At his current rate of production, he could still reach 100 points. 

The Vegas Golden Knights extended their winning streak to 10 games by downing the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty led the way with three points each for the Golden Knights (72 points), opening a six-point lead over the second-place Avalanche in the Honda West Division.

Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas rallied the St. Louis Blues over the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Hoffman scored twice for the Blues (50 points) as they opened a three-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for fourth place in the West. The Wild (65 points) saw their seven-game win streak snapped. They remain one point behind the Avalanche.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks. Evander Kane tallied his 20th goal of the season.

The Ottawa Senators rode a four-goal second period to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Brady Tkachuk led the way for the Senators with a “Gordie Howe hat trick”.

Cam Fowler scored the game-winner as the Anaheim Ducks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The Ducks, however, are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Kings center Quinton Byfield recorded four shots on goal in his NHL debut.

THE SCORE: Former NHL coach Gerard Gallant was named head coach of Team Canada at the 2021 World Championships.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2021

A look at several teams that could make side deals this summer with the Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun and Ryan S. Clark recently listed the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Tampa Bay Lightning as six clubs that could be in play to make side deals with the Seattle Kraken.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images)

LeBrun doesn’t expect much to happen with the Hurricanes if defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a pending unrestricted free agent, isn’t signed before the July 21 expansion draft. The Hurricanes would then have a week before the free-agent market opens on July 28 to re-sign Hamilton. However, it’s possible the Kraken could sign Hamilton during their exclusive free-agent interview window (July 18-21), making the blueliner part of their expansion draft selections.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks they’ll hold off on signing Hamilton until after the expansion draft in order to protect Jake Bean as well as Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. He also speculated the Kraken could take Brady Skjei in that scenario but could balk at his $5.25 million cap hit.

Clark pointed out the Avalanche could lose Ryan Graves to the Kraken if they protect just three defensemen or blueliner Jacob MacDonald if they protect eight skaters. It’s expected veteran Erik Johnson will be asked to waive his no-movement clause to be exposed in the draft. The Avs could explore trading one of their forwards if they can get something substantial in return and are open to discussing their needs with the Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson waiving his NMC would give the Avs some flexibility over which defensemen to protect. If they opt to protect eight skaters to hand onto four defensemen, however, they’ll lose a decent forward to the Kraken. Avs general manager Joe Sakic will probably be talking trade with Kraken GM Ron Francis in the days leading up to July 21.

Clark indicated the Oilers’ plans will depend upon the health of sidelined defenseman Oscar Klefbom. A recovering Klefbom could be exposed in the draft because the Kraken won’t select an injured player with a $4.167 million cap hit. However, the Oilers could make a side deal if Klefbom is healthy and they re-sign pending UFAs Tyson Barrie and Adam Larsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports have Klefbom facing an uncertain future following his shoulder surgery. The Oilers could wait until after the expansion draft to sign Barrie and Larsson or they could sign one and take their chances with the other if Klefbom isn’t healthy by then.

LeBrun explored several scenarios if the Kraken were to covet Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger. They could have the Panthers re-sign the pending UFA goalie before the draft and select him as an exposed player, sign him during their free-agent interview period or attempt to sign him in the free-agent market on July 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks Panthers GM Bill Zito will approach Francis about the sign-and-select option, perhaps offering up an enticement like defenseman Markus Nutivaara in a side deal.

The Wild could have discussions with Jonas Brodin, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Mats Zuccarello about waiving their no-movement clauses. Getting at least two of them to waive their NMCs would make it possible to protect Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway. Failing that, they risk losing Dumba if they protect three defensemen or Greenway if they protect eight skaters. Protecting Dumba and Greenway could also create a situation where the Kraken could select defenseman Carson Soucy or goaltender Cam Talbot, raising the possibility of a side deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Parise and Suter could provide the most flexibility for the Wild if they can be convinced to waive their NMCs. I doubt Francis would want an aging veteran carrying a $7.538 million cap hit on his books for the next four years.

The cap-strapped Lightning could try to sell the Kraken on selecting Spokane native Tyler Johnson but they’ll have to add a sweetener to convince them to take his $5 million cap hit off the Lightning’s books. LeBrun suggested the cost could be trading their 2022 first-round pick to the Kraken or shipping them winger Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat (if he waives his no-trade clause) defenseman Erik Cernak.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what the Lightning do in this situation. Bolts GM Julien BriseBois tried to waive and trade Johnson before the start of the season but couldn’t find any takers. He’ll have to package him with a good player or that first-round pick to convince Francis to take him.










NHL ProteauType: Avs Are Cup Frontrunners, But After That, It’s Anyone’s Guess

NHL ProteauType: Avs Are Cup Frontrunners, But After That, It’s Anyone’s Guess

 










NHL North Division: Canada’s Three Way Battle

NHL North Division: Canada’s Three Way Battle

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2021

Patrick Marleau sets the league record for most games played, Kirill Kaprizov sets a franchise record, the stars of the week are revealed, Alex Edler is suspended and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: Patrick Marleau played his 1,768th career game to pass Gordie Howe for the most in NHL history as his San Jose Sharks dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Vegas Golden Knights. Mark Stone scored twice as Vegas overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout. Alex Tuch scored the game-winner. With 66 points, the Golden Knights move two points up on the Colorado Avalanche into first place in the Honda West Division.

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

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Marleau on his remarkable achievement. His record won’t be broken anytime soon. The closest active players are aging stars Joe Thornton (1,669) and Zdeno Chara (1,598).

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov scored to set the single-season franchise record for points (37) by a rookie in a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Kevin Fiala had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who sit third in the West Division with 59 points. The Coyotes (45 points) hold a one-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for the fourth-and-final playoff spot.

Four unanswered third-period goals powered the Edmonton Oilers over the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Connor McDavid led the way with a goal and two assists. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury suffered following a collision with Oilers forward Alex Chiasson. Edmonton forward Jujhar Khaira also departed in the first following a hit by Montreal defenseman Alexander Romanov. The Oilers (56 points) moved within a point of the second-place Winnipeg Jets in the Scotia North Division while the Canadiens are fourth with 47 points.

The Calgary Flames missed an opportunity to gain ground on the floundering Canadiens as they were upset 4-2 by the Ottawa Senators. Connor Brown scored twice and Matt Murray made 26 saves for the Senators. The Flames remain six points back of the Habs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators did the Canadiens a favor by beating the Flames. The Habs have won just three of their last 10 games and would be out of a playoff spot if the Flames weren’t having their own difficulties. Barring a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes, the Canadiens will likely back into the postseason and become first-round roadkill.

An overtime goal by Yanni Gourde lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Tampa Bay blew a 2-0 lead as the Hurricanes rallied back to force the extra frame. The Hurricanes remain in first place in the Discover Central Division with 63 points, holding two games in hand over the Florida Panthers. The Bolts, meanwhile, remain a point behind both clubs.

Speaking of the Panthers, they got two goals from Frank Vatrano to double up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Sam Bennett tallied his first goal with the Panthers since being acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline. Jackets forward Max Domi was a healthy scratch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The race for first place in the Central could be closely contested for the remainder of the regular season.

The Nashville Predators got a big two points in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Calle Jarnkrok and Luke Kunin each had a goal and an assist for the Predators, who hold fourth place in the Central with 51 points while the Blackhawks sit four points back.

A shootout goal by Denis Gurianov gave the Dallas Stars a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. With 48 points, the Stars moved past the Blackhawks into fifth place.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski, New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin, and Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending April 18.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler received a two-game suspension by the NHL department of player safety for kneeing Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman on Sunday.

TORONTO STAR: Hyman will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained knee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are likely breathing a sigh of relief that Hyman’s injury wasn’t more serious than it is. He should be recovered in time for the playoffs in a month’s time.

NJ.COM: The Devils signed 2020 first-round pick Alexander Holtz to a three-year entry-level contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 19, 2021

What could be in store this summer for the Oilers? Will the Blackhawks re-sign or trade Nikita Zadorov in the offseason? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Salary-cap limitations prevented Oilers GM Ken Holland from making big moves at the recent trade deadline. Terry Jones expects Holland could be able to do more in the offseason and next season once he’s out of salary-cap hell.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (NHL Images).

Holland told Jones he doesn’t know if top-pairing defenseman Oscar Klefbom has made a decision about continuing his career following shoulder surgery. He intends to speak with the blueliner in June and July as they get closer to the expansion draft and free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom has two more seasons left on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.167 million. Getting him back healthy for next season will certainly help his defense core.

If Klefbom’s career is over he’ll go on permanent long-term injury reserve if necessary, giving the Oilers GM some cap relief to perhaps put toward re-signing an unrestricted free agent such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson or Tyson Barrie, or perhaps to find one of their replacements.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Following last Monday’s NHL trade deadline, Ben Pope suggested Nikita Zadorov has the remainder of this season to prove to the Chicago Blackhawks he still belongs in their future. Pope wrote the Blackhawks set a high asking price for the big 26-year-old blueliner before the trade deadline but decided to keep him when no one met that price.

Zadorov becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. It’ll cost $3.2 million to qualify his rights but it’s expected he’ll seek more than that on his next contract. Pope speculated Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman could trade Zadorov this summer if he fails to solidify his role as their shutdown defenseman.

Mental mistakes and turnovers have proven costly for Zadorov. He faces a competitor for his job in Riley Stillman, who was recently acquired from the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks shipped winger Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche for Zadorov and Anton Lindholm, the latter spending this season on their taxi squad. The big blueliner could be shopped in the offseason or perhaps left exposed in the expansion draft if he fails to make a positive impression over the remainder of this season.

Bowman will probably prefer to trade Zadorov rather than lose him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken. The decline in his stock, however, means he might only fetch a mid-range draft pick or a prospect.