An update on CBA negotiations plus the latest on Patrice Bergeron, Max Domi, Pavel Zacha, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS: The quiet nature of recent labor negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players Association is breeding cautious optimism another work stoppage can be avoided. The NHLPA has until Sept. 15 to opt out of the current agreement effective next September.
The two sides met twice in the past five days and discussions are expected to continue this week. Several players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly, are hopeful those discussions could lead to a positive outcome.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a sense the league and the PA are trying to reach some sort of agreement before Sept. 15. Publicly, both sides claim talks remain cordial and productive. We’ll find out soon enough if anything comes out of these ongoing negotiations. Should the PA pass on the early opt-out, the current CBA will expire on Sept. 2022.
Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is still nursing a nagging groin injury (Photo via NHL Images).
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins center Patrice Bergeron still feels the effects of a nagging groin injury but expects to be ready when training camp opens this week. He’s not concerned about his readiness for the start of the season. Defenseman John Moore, meanwhile, is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and will miss the start of camp.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he’s had discussions with Max Domi’s representatives regarding a contract extension. The 24-year-old forward will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights.
In other Canadiens news, they won’t be inviting unrestricted free agent winger Jason Pominville to training camp. Management wants their young players to have a fair chance to crack the roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pominville was open to joining the Habs and he’s also hopeful of returning to the Buffalo Sabres. If they’re not interested, he’ll have to consider other options, provided any remain available to him.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Reports indicate New Jersey Devils center Pavel Zacha signed a one-year contract with KHL team Avangard Omsk but neither club confirmed the signing. The KHL doesn’t include an opt-out clause in their contracts, meaning Zacha would have to play the entire season in Russia.
Devils GM Ray Shero said he didn’t care where Zacha signs as his club still holds the center’s NHL rights. Shero said playing in the KHL isn’t the path he advocates for the restricted free agent, adding it’s a long road back to the NHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shero apparently wasn’t happy with that news, reportedly peppering his response with expletives. Zacha’s representatives could believe signing a KHL contract will pressure Shero into meeting their NHL contract demands. Judging by Shero’s remarks, that tactic may have backfired. He could be losing patience with the 22-year-old Zacha, who has averaged 25 points a year during his three seasons with the Devils.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Former Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was named to the club’s player development department.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Long-time Lightning play-by-play broadcaster Rick Peckham will retire at the end of this season.
2019 HHOF class revealed, the Avalanche trade Soderberg to the Coyotes, Craig Berube made full-time Blues coach, Brooks Orpik retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Canadian women’s star Hayley Wickenheiser, former NHL defenseman Sergei Zubov and former NHL center Guy Carbonneau are among those to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November. Joining them are former Czechoslovakian star Vaclav Nedomansky, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, and longtime Boston College coach Jerry York.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to all the member of the Class of 2019.
The Colorado Avalanche trade center Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes (Photo via NHL Images).
The Colorado Avalanche yesterday traded center Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Kevin Connauton and a 2020 third-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes add some experienced depth at center while clearing a bit of a logjam on the blueline. The Avalanche, meanwhile, freed up more salary-cap space. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $38 million in cap room.
A big chunk of that will go toward re-signing restricted free agents like Mikko Rantanen, Alexander Kerfoot, Nikita Zadorov, and J.T. Compher. However, they’ll still have plenty of room to be aggressive in this summer’s UFA market.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues made Craig Berube their full-time head coach, signing him to a three-year contract. He served this season on an interim basis and guided the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
NHLPA: Defenseman Brooks Orpik yesterday announced his retirement. He played 15 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup with both clubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Orpik cited a knee injury for ending his career, saying he played in pain throughout last season. Best wishes to him and his family in their future endeavors.
NHL.COM: The league released its full schedule for 2019-20.
The league also released the complete list of restricted free agent players who received qualifying offers before yesterday’s 5 pm ET deadline.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators re-signed defenseman Cody Goloubef to a one-year, two-way contract.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed defenseman Adam Clendening to a two-year contract extension. Cap Friendly indicates it’s worth $700K per season.
TWINCITIES.COM: Center Matt Hendricks has retired after 607 NHL games. He played for the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, and Winnipeg Jets. He’s joining the Wild in their department of player development.
Important note on offer sheets: NHL teams that have already traded their 2020 1st-round pick are still eligible to tender a max offer using the 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 picks.
So — cap space issues aside — every team technically has the ability to do one on July 1.
The latest Penguins, Bruins, Senators, Capitals, and Flyers speculation, plus an update on Nikita Zaitsev, in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PENGUINS NOT DONE DEALING?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In the wake of the Penguins trading Olli Maatta to Chicago for Dominik Kahan and a draft pick, Ron Cook believes there’s more work to do. Trading Maatta won’t return them to Stanley Cup contender status or resolve their team chemistry. General manager Jim Rutherford last week said he’d welcome back Phi Kessel. Cook, however, believes Rutherford is still trying to trade the winger.
Patric Hornqvist’s age, concussion history, and his lengthy contract make him difficult to move. Blueliner Kris Letang has as 12-team no-trade list, and Evgeni Malkin has a full no-movement clause. Cook considers Malkin the least likely to be traded but doesn’t rule it out if the right deal can be found.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel recently spiked a deal that would’ve sent him to Minnesota for winger Jason Zucker. If Rutherford wants to move the winger he must convince him to broaden his eight-team trade list. I don’t see Hornqvist, Letang or Malkin going anywhere.
MORE KRUG AND KREJCI TRADE SPECULATION
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty recently suggested defenseman Torey Krug and center David Krejci could become Boston Bruins’ trade bait. Krug, 28, is a year away from unrestricted free agent status and coming off a strong performance this season. Haggerty thinks he’d be the bait the Bruins need to land a top-six power forward but they’ll have to carefully consider that option.
Haggerty also feels Krejci is now at his peak value and could attract interest in the trade market. Moving his $7.25-million annual average value would clear up some potential salary-cap complications.
Could Boston Bruins center David Krejci become a cost-cutting trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have a projected $14.3 million in salary-cap space. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are coming off entry-level contracts. Their new deals could eat up most of that cap room. They could buy out David Backes but would see only $333K in cap savings for 2019-20.
Krejci’s no-movement clause reverts to a modified no-trade on July 1. That could make him easier to shop. But after coming so close to winning the Stanley Cup this season, GM Don Sweeney could be reluctant to move Krug or Krejci.
“ZAITSEV-TO-EDMONTON” MEDIA CHATTER CONTINUES
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples observes conflicting speculation out of Toronto linking Maple Leafs blueliner Nikita Zaitsev to the Oilers. He notes TSN’s Darren Dreger last week suggesting the Oilers and Vancouver Canucks could have interest in Zaitsev, a third-pairing rearguard earning second-pairing dollars ($4.5 million annually). Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman countered he’s heard the Oilers aren’t going down that route.
However, The Athletic’s James Mirtle considers Edmonton the top destination. He wondered if packaging Zaitsev with Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would bring Adam Larsson to Toronto.
Staples doesn’t believe the Oilers would agree to that deal. “However you slice it, Edmonton can’t afford to have another big contract from a player who isn’t a top performer, not with Milan Lucic already on the books and Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell and Mikko Koskinen all iffy propositions.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Staples on this one. There’s a better chance of Lucic getting traded to Vancouver for Loui Eriksson than a package of Zaitsev and Kapanen or Johnsson going to Edmonton for Larsson. And I think Lucic-for-Eriksson is a long shot.
CAPITALS CAP CONUNDRUM
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien points out the Washington Capitals’ limited salary-cap space following their re-signing of Carl Hagelin yesterday. They now have around $10.7 million in projected salary-cap room. Their restricted free agents include Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky while Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Brooks Orpik are unrestricted.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith-Pelly isn’t expected to be re-signed. NBC Sports Washington’s J.J.Regan believes their acquisition last week of Radko Gudas spells the end of Orpik’s tenure with the Capitals.
Vrana’s going to be re-signed and I think they want to keep Connolly if he’ll agree to accept less than market value. Burakovsky’s frequently come up in trade rumors this season and could be moved if things get tight cap-wise.
FLYERS SEEK A BACKUP GOALTENDER
COURIER-POST ONLINE: Dave Isaac reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher has spoken with some teams regarding a potential trade for a backup goalie. Fletcher suggests that search could go into the upcoming free-agency period. It doesn’t sound like pending UFAs Brian Elliott and Cam Talbot will be back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trade options could including James Reimer of the Florida Panthers and Garret Sparks of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both are reportedly being shopped by their respective clubs.
UPDATE ON THE SENATORS
OTTAWA SUN: Given the Senators’ blueline depth, Bruce Garrioch wouldn’t be surprised if they put defenseman Ben Harpur on the trade block. His size and affordable $725K one-way contract could make him an attractive option. The Senators also wouldn’t mind moving veteran winger Mikkel Boedker. He has a year left on his contract with a $4-million cap hit. They’re also expected to qualify the rights of restricted free agents Cody Ceci, Colin White, and Anthony Duclair.
Blue Jackets and Stars even their second-round series at one game apiece, Calder Memorial Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Matt Duchene scored in double overtime as the Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Boston Bruins 3-2 to square their second-round series at a game apiece. Artemi Panarin scored twice and picked up an assist on Duchene’s goal.
Artemi Panarin scored twice and set up another to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a series-tying 3-2 overtime win over the Boston Bruins (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panarin was the star of this game. His first goal came from a one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle while his second was an incredible snipe from a sharp angle. Duchene scored his goal by picking up the rebound from a Panarin shot.
This game saw plenty of hits, with the Jackets holding a 49-42 edge in that department. It’s safe to say the Jackets have shaken off the rust from their long layoff between series. This could end up being the most physical series of the second round.
The Dallas Stars also tied their second-round series with the St. Louis Blues with a 4-2 victory yesterday afternoon. Roope Hintz scored twice and set up another, Mats Zuccarello and Jason Dickinson each collected two assists, and Ben Bishop made 32 saves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars also did a fine job of penalty killing as the Stars failed to cash in with five man-advantage opportunities. Hintz is enjoying a strong postseason. The 22-year-old Finnish rookie sits second among Stars scorers with seven points.
Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, and Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson are this year’s finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year.
THE SCORE: Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen isn’t concerned about being passed over as a finalist for the Calder. “I don’t care,” he told The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro. “They are good players also. So I’m having fun here in playoffs.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Heiskanen’s supporters believe he merits Calder consideration because he played a full season whereas Binnington was called up at midseason. The case can also be made by Binnington’s supporters that the Blues wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. I’m in the latter camp but I acknowledge Heiskanen’s had one helluva season and is well on his way to becoming one of the NHL’s elite defensemen.
NBC SPORTS: Washington Capitals blueliner Brooks Orpik intends to take some time mulling his future. The 38-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and there’s speculation he could hang up his skates.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild are close to bringing in Mike Modano in a front-office role. He’s apparently close to moving his young family to Minnesota and could take on an ambassador-type role with the Wild. Modano began his career with the Minnesota North Stars in 1988-89 and moved with the team when it was relocated to Dallas in 1993.
Will James Neal return with the Flames next season? Could the Capitals shop Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky this summer? Should the Canucks pursue Jason Zucker or try to trade Brandon Sutter this summer? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THE FLAMES MOVE NEAL AND TRADE BRODIE?
CALGARY SUN: Despite the calls from Flames followers for the club to rid themselves of veteran winger James Neal, Wes Gilbertson recently reported there’s “little doubt” he’ll return with the club next season. He doesn’t believe Flames ownership will approve a contract buyout stretching through 2026-17 burning up nearly $2 million in annual salary-cap space. He also doesn’t see a market for a winger carrying an AAV of $5.75-million through 2022-23. Neal, meanwhile, wants to be a top-six forward and intends to train this summer toward returning to his 20-goal-per-season form.
Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to trade or buy out James Neal’s contract this summer (Photo via NHL Images)
During a roundtable with Sun writers Danny Austin and Kristen Anderson on the Flames season and offseason plans, Gilbertson agreed with Anderson that GM Brad Treliving is unlikely to make sweeping roster changes. He believes Treliving must find a second-line right winger, suggesting perhaps revisiting the trade for Jason Zucker with the Minnesota Wild that fell through at the trade deadline. He also agreed with Austin that defenseman T.J. Brodie could be traded this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have over $69 million invested in 20 players, with RFAs Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to re-sign and goaltenders Mike Smith and David Rittich to re-sign or replace. Tkachuk’s next contract alone could absorb around $9 million of their salary-cap space. If they’re looking to shed salary, Brodie rather than Neal is a more likely trade candidate.
Neal lacks no-trade protection but the sharp decline in his production this season combined with the remaining years and the cap hit of his contract makes him a tough sell. He’ll likely return with the Flames next season.
If Treliving intends to acquire Zucker ($5.5 million AAV) or another right winger, that move will have to be as close to a dollar-for-dollar swap as possible or doing a separate deal to shed the cap space necessary to take on that incoming winger’s contract. Those moves could involve Brodie or Michael Frolik, who was reportedly offered up to the Wild (along with a draft pick) for Zucker.
WILL THE CAPITALS TRADE NISKANEN AND BURAKOVSKY THIS SUMMER?
THE WASHINGTON POST: In the wake of the Washington Capitals first-round playoff elimination, Isabelle Khurshudyan recently examined potential offseason moves in store for the roster. She points out the bonuses owed to Brooks Orpik, Jakub Vrana, and Jonas Siegenthaler ($1.15 million total) will count against next season’s salary-cap payroll.
Khurshudyan speculates the addition of defenseman Nick Jensen in February could make veteran blueliner Matt Niskanen a salary-cap casualty. Trading Niskanen, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $5.75-million annual salary-cap hit, would create flexibility this summer and next.
The Capitals must also decide what to do with winger Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who was also the subject of frequent trade speculation. Fellow RFAs Dmitrij Jaskin and Chandler Stephenson also face uncertain futures. Of their unrestricted free agents, Orpik and Devante Smith-Pelly are least likely to return. The Capitals probably want to re-sign forwards Brett Connolly and Carl Hagelin but probably can’t afford to keep both. With 22 goals and 46 points, Connolly has more upside.
Khurshudyan considers re-signing Vrana the priority, using Vegas Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch ($4.75-million annual average value) as a “conservative comparable,” speculating his representatives could push for a bridge deal as a hedge that his production will continue to climb, ensuring a bigger future payday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $72.6 million already invested in 17 players for 2019-20. Deduct that $1.15 million bonus overage from the projected $83 million salary cap for next season and they’ll have around $9 million to work with. Even if Vrana’s camp wants a bridge deal, he’s going to get a significant raise coming off his entry-level contract, perhaps around $4 million. Connolly made $1.5 million annually on his current contract and will likely seek around $4 million. That won’t leave much to fill in the rest of the lineup.
Somebody must be moved in a cost-cutting deal. Niskanen had a modified no-trade clause listing 10 teams he cannot be traded to, leaving a 20-team marketplace. Given his experience, puck-moving skills, ability to log big minutes and the market for right-shooting defensemen, the Capitals should be able to find a suitable destination for him and probably won’t have to absorb any of his salary-cap hit. However, they can’t afford to take any salary back so they’ll likely look at draft picks and prospects in return.
Burakovsky’s days with the Capitals appear in doubt. GM Brian MacLellan resisted the temptation to move the 24-year-old winger this season in hopes he’d improve. While he did play better down the stretch, I don’t think he did enough to ensure a long-term future there. They could decide not to qualify Burakovsky’s rights in hopes of signing him at a lower salary but I think they’ll see what he might fetch in the trade market.
Orpik hasn’t made a decision about his future yet but there’s already speculation he might retire. Hagelin said he’d like to return but they might not have enough cap space to keep him.
RECENT CANUCKS TRADE SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: During a mailbag segment earlier this month, JD Burke was asked about possible trade targets for the Canucks. He suggested making a pitch for Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker. Pointing to the near-deal that would’ve sent Zucker to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline for Michael Frolik and a draft pick, he proposes the Canucks offer up Jake Virtanen. He also believes they should target the Edmonton Oilers, assuming they’ll once again screw up their GM search.
Asked which team the Canucks could trade center Brandon Sutter to this summer, he doubts there’s much of a market for the 30-year-old center, who’s signed through 2020-21 with a $4.35-million AAV and also carries a no-trade clause. He speculates the Edmonton Oilers might be interested, depending on who becomes their next GM. He also wonders if the Columbus Blue Jackets would be willing to swap Alexander Wennberg’s contract (signed through 2022-23, $4.9 million AAV) for Sutter’s, or if the New York Islanders might be interested.
VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston recently listed Sutter, Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Loui Eriksson, and Ben Hutton as potential Canucks trade candidates. Goldobin’s a restricted free agent who said he wants to stay in Vancouver but Johnston wondered if he’ll get the chance. Eriksson carries a $6 million AAV and was employed on the fourth line this season. He also carries a 15-team no-trade list but could be appealing to budget clubs looking to become cap compliant.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pundits and fans can make suggestions over what moves the Canucks should attempt to make but GM Jim Benning probably has other ideas. If Zucker’s available, the Wild could attempt to drive up his value by getting teams into a bidding war for his services. If so, forget about prying him out of Minnesota with Virtanen.
There could be a market for Sutter or Eriksson among cost-conscious clubs looking to reach the cap minimum. However, those teams will also want a sweetener included in the deal, like a decent draft pick or a good prospect.
The Canucks might not have to worry about re-signing Goldobin. He’s reportedly considering signing with a KHL team this summer.