NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2020

A look at next year’s unrestricted free agent class in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently previewed the NHL’s 2021 unrestricted free agent class.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

The notable forwards include Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Montreal Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Boston Bruins center David Krejci, and Avalanche winger Brandon Saad.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s already signaled his intent to re-sign with the Capitals. Unless Getzlaf feels he’d like one more shot at a Stanley Cup run, I can see him staying with the Ducks on a short-term deal. The Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are discussing a long-term contract extension. I doubt the Avalanche part ways with Landeskog and I don’t see the Blues letting Schwartz depart after losing Alex Pietrangelo to free agency this year.

Hall could stay with the Sabres if he develops strong chemistry with Jack Eichel and the club significantly improves. Otherwise, he’ll test the market again. Tatar’s inconsistency means the coming season is likely his last in Montreal. The Bruins could let Krejci go unless he accepts a significant pay cut. Saad could be a one-year rental unless the Avs fail to re-sign Landeskog.

Noteworthy defensemen on O’Leary’s list include the Carolina Hurricanes’ Dougie Hamilton, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard, the Oilers’ Adam Larsson, and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four could end up hitting the market next summer. Cap constraints could make it difficult for Hamilton, Larsson and Martinez to remain with their current clubs. Savard will turn 31 next October and the Jackets could be reluctant to invest too much in him for too long.

The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, the Blues’ Jordan Binnington, and the Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer are among next year’s best UFA goaltenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Bruins re-signing Rask to a short-term deal provided he doesn’t opt for retirement at the end of 2020-21. Andersen is likely a goner after next season.

The Blues parted ways with Jake Allen this year by trading him to the Montreal Canadiens. Things will really have to go sideways for them to let Binnington walk next summer. Grubauer’s future in Colorado could depend upon his performance in the coming season, especially during the playoffs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 9, 2020

The latest on Alex Ovechkin, last season’s non-playoff clubs still waiting to find out when they’ll start training camps, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined what Alex Ovechkin’s next contract with the Washington Capitals could look like. The 35-year-old winger is entering the final season of his 13-year, $124 million deal. He’s indicated he wants to finish his NHL career with the Capitals and they want to keep him. Gretz speculates a five-year, $50 million contract should be doable even under a flattened cap for the foreseeable future as it won’t dramatically alter the club’s salary-cap structure.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see Ovechkin signing for around the same annual average value ($9.538 million) as his current deal on a three-year deal if he’s keen to return to the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow to finish his playing career. I’ll be shocked if he and the Capitals failed to reach an agreement on an extension.

MLIVE.COM: The seven clubs that failed to make the playoffs last season, such as the Detroit Red Wings, could start training camp sooner than the other teams. However, it remains to be seen when that will take place. Many of the Wings have been working out and skating together, but they could go more than 10 months between games if the 2020-21 season begins in January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings and the rest of last season’s non-playoff teams (Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa and San Jose) could be facing a long wait before they play their first meaningful games again. The NHL-NHLPA return-to-play committee has yet to meet, and there’s speculation the league’s tentative Jan.1 start date could be pushed into February or March.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged those non-playoff clubs will get a longer training camp period. The dates, however, won’t be announced until the league finally reveals the start date for the season.

THE SCORE: Seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams located in COVID-19 red zones in Quebec will be playing games in Quebec City from Nov. 17 – 27. Each team will play six games there. The QMJHL is the only CHL branch to begin its 2020-21 season. The Western Hockey League (WHL) is set to begin on Jan. 8 while the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has targeted Feb. 4 for its return.

NHL.COM: Former Toronto Maple Leaf and colorful hockey analyst Howie Meeker passed away on Sunday at age 97. Meeker spent his entire eight-year NHL career (1946-47 to 1953-54) with the Leafs, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy and four Stanley Cups. He was also the Leafs head coach for one season (1956-57) and briefly served as general manager.

Meeker went on to a 30-year career as a hockey analyst with CBC and TSN. He was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1998 and inducted into the Order of Canada and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meeker was a Second World War veteran who overcame injuries from a grenade to reach the NHL. He was also a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for two years while playing with the Leafs. Meeker ran the popular series “Howie Meeker’s Hockey School” on CBC during the 1970s and wrote two books, including his autobiography in 1997. My condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.

NHL.COM: The NHL mourned the passing of Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. League commissioner Gary Bettman, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Senators’ first-round pick Tim Stuetzle, New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens organization were among those expressing condolences yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trebek frequently appeared in NHL functions such as the league’s award show. His last appearance for the league came during the 2020 NHL Draft last month when he announced the Senators’ selection of Stuetzle with their first-round pick. My condolences to his family, friends and many fans.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 6, 2020

Alex Ovechkin discusses his future, the Rangers avoid arbitration with Ryan Strome, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: Alexander Ovechkin told Russian Television International he’d like to finish his playing career with KHL club Dynamo Moscow. However, he still intends to finish his NHL career with the Washington Capitals. “It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington,” he said.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He is still motivated to win another Stanley Cup, but he’s also chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. Ovechkin sits 188 goals behind Gretzky’s 894. He’s also one season shy of tying Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons (10).

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers avoided arbitration with Ryan Strome, signing the 27-year-old center to a two-year, $9 million contract. The annual average value is $4.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a nice pay raise for Strome over the $3.1 million AAV of his previous contract. Larry Brooks noted the move also provides stability at center for the Rangers, though they could leave Strome unprotected in next year’s expansion draft. Cap Friendly indicates the Blueshirts have over $6.3 million in projected cap space with Brendan Lemieux left to sign. He’s slated for arbitration today. 

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gavrikov, 24, had a solid NHL debut with 18 points in 69 games while averaging almost 19 minutes per game. His contract leaves the Blue Jackets with $9.225 million in cap space with Pierre-Luc Dubois to sign.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed prospect winger Jacob Perreault to a three-year, entry-level contract. Perreault was selected 27th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed winger Marko Dano to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K at the NHL level.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2020

The Golden Knights eliminate the Blackhawks, the Capitals stave off elimination by the Isles, the Flyers and Stars are on the verge of advancing,  and the hockey world mourns Dale Hawerchuk in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Alex Tuch’s third-period goal snapped a 3-3 tie as the Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 to win Game 5 and their opening-round series. The Golden Knights overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficit. Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist for Vegas, who face the Western Conference’s lowest-remaining seed in the next round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-earned series victory by the Golden Knights over a plucky, but over-matched Blackhawks club. Vegas dominated the play through most of this series and probably would’ve swept it if not for Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford, who likely earned a new contract with the Hawks following his strong postseason play.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

The Washington Capitals avoided being swept by the New York Islanders as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win in Game 4 of their first-round series. Evgeny Kuznetsov sparked the comeback by cutting the deficit to 2-1, setting the stage for Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying and game-winning goals. Isles winger Cal Clutterbuck left the game in the second period following a low hit by Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas. An update on his condition is expected today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles seemed to have this game in the bag after taking a 2-0 lead into the second period, but their energy sagged as the desperate Capitals fought back, dominating the Isles at even strength. It’ll be interesting to see if the Caps can maintain that energy in Game 5 on Thursday.

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart become the second-youngest goaltender in NHL history to post back-to-back playoff shutouts as he and his teammates blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 in Game 4 of their first-round series. Hart made 29 saves while Michael Raffl and Philippe Myers scored.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow this link for my take of Game 4. The Flyers lead the series 3-1 and can wrap things up tonight in Game 5.

The Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead over the Calgary Flames by hanging on for a 2-1 victory in Game 5. John Klingberg’s third-period goal held up as the winner while Anton Khudobin made 28 saves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars have done a good job stifling the Flames’ top scorers. Johnny Gaudreau has just three points (two of those in one game) while Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm have been limited to two assists each. The Flames also miss feisty sidelined winger Matthew Tkachuk.

HEADLINES

WINNIPEG SUN: Dale Hawerchuk passed away at age 57 from stomach cancer. The Hall-of-Famer spent 16 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and Philadelphia Flyers, amassing 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 games. It was with the Jets that he had his best seasons, with six 100-plus point seasons in nine years in Winnipeg, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1981-82. He also played for Team Canada in their memorable 1987 Canada Cup series with the Soviet Union. Hawerchuk went on to coach the OHL’s Barrie Colts from 2010-11 until his illness forced him to step down in 2019.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Hawerchuk’s family and friends. He was overshadowed during his prime by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but he was among the NHL’s top centers during the 1980s, as well as the Jets’ franchise player.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko has returned to St. Louis to have his surgically-repaired left shoulder reevaluated. He won’t return for the remainder of his club’s series against the Vancouver Canucks and could be sidelined even longer.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: There’s a chance Bruins winger David Pastrnak could suit up for today’s Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since Game 1.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 1, 2020

Alex Ovechkin, Brenden Dillon, and the Capitals postpone contract talks until after the playoffs, plus the latest on the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said contract extension discussions with Alex Ovechkin are on hold until after the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Given the uncertainty that’s unfolded this year in the NHL, MacLellan indicated both sides want to see how everything pans out.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Ovechkin, 34, has one year remaining on his contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a rumor, of course, but Ovechkin’s contract status could generate interest following this season. The longer he goes without an extension, the more speculation about his future with the Capitals.

Ovechkin’s current contract counts as over $9.538 million annually against the Capitals’ salary-cap payroll. In actual salary, he’s earning $10 million per season.

Despite his age, Ovechkin remains among the NHL’s elite players, winning the Richard Trophy for the ninth time as the league’s leading goal scorer (shared this season with Boston’s David Pastrnak). He’s among the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.

Ovechkin’s also the greatest player in Capitals history, the man who led them to their first Stanley Cup. He’s the face of that franchise. Re-signing him, however, could get interesting. 

Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $57 million invested in 13 players to 2021-22, though that figure will rise depending on who they re-sign or add to their roster this season and for how long. Winger Jakub Vrana and goaltender Ilya Samsonov will be restricted free agents next year and due for pay raises. Finding sufficient space for Ovechkin’s new contract, as well as Vrana’s and Samsonov’s, and having enough to fill out the rest of the roster could be challenging. 

I’ll be shocked if Ovechkin and the Capitals don’t work something out. It’ll be fascinating to see how much term and dollars he gets to stay in Washington and the effect the Capitals’ payroll under what could be a flat cap for ’21-’22.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan reports MacLellan also indicated contract negotiations for this year’s pending free agents are on hold until the playoffs are over. That includes defenseman Brenden Dillon, a pending UFA who joined the Capitals from the San Jose Sharks near the February trade deadline. Dillon has expressed interest in re-signing with the Capitals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Radko Gudas are UFAs at the end of this season, while Travis Boyd and Jonas Siegenthaler are restricted free agents. With over $71.1 million invested in 16 players, there’s not a lot of wiggle room there.

Holtby, Kovalchuk, and Gudas are expected to depart via free agency. Boyd and Siegenthaler should be affordable re-signings. Depending on Dillon’s asking price, they might be able to squeeze him into their payroll.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl expressed his belief the Buffalo Sabres’ No.1 job is to find a center for high-prices winger Jeff Skinner.

He doesn’t expect the Sabres will pinch pennies with their roster. However, he acknowledged an off-season comment by team co-owner Kim Pegula where she noted the club had spent toward the cap for years with little to show for it.

Vogl also believes the Sabres must improve their goaltending. He’d be concerned if they should pass up a netminder who’s available for a reasonable price.

Defenseman Brandon Montour could become a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and the Sabres have sufficient right-side blueline depth.

Whether the Sabres plunge into this year’s UFA pool depends on the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given their recent front-office purge, it’s difficult to determine what’s in store for the Sabres under rookie general manager Kevyn Adams. I agree with Vogl regarding their needs, but Adams and company could see things differently. The earliest indications should come in the days following the Stanley Cup Final and leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft.

If the Pegulas get frugal with their payroll, we can expect a younger roster supplemented by cheap, short-term additions via the trade and UFA market. However, that probably won’t sit well with captain Jack Eichel. The Sabres must commit to winning or risk alienating their franchise player.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 30, 2020

Recaps of the second day of exhibition games, an update on John Chayka’s departure from the Coyotes, the Blackhawks announce initiatives to honor Native American culture, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

EXHIBITION GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat combined for 10 points as the Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Florida Panthers 5-0. Point led the way with two goals and two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the shutout with a 26-save performance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky gave up five goals on 34 shots, but he was hung out to dry by his teammates. The Panthers must improve their defensive play before they face off against the New York Islanders in their qualifying round series.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied twice and set up another to lead his club over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Capitals defenseman John Carlson left the game in the final 10 minutes as a precautionary measure after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on his condition is expected today. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek gave up three goals on 16 shots before being replaced by James Reimer.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 37 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Jets captain Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist. Teammate Nikolaj Ehlers also scored, but left the game in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. No word yet as to his status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the long layoff had little effect on Hellebuyck’s performance. The Vezina Trophy finalist was on top of his game against the Canucks. Ehlers may have aggravated an ailment that nagged him throughout training camp.

Dominik Kubalik scored twice and added an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks blanked the St. Louis Blues 4-0. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made 11 saves through two periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford looked sharp in this contest after missing most of the Blackhawks’ training camp when he tested positive for COVID-19. His performance against the Blues is a good sign as he and his teammates face the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round.

Colorado Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Joonas Donskoi were the goal scorers as their club edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Wild center Eric Staal had a goal and an assist. The Avs killed off seven of eight penalties.

Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss combined for 26 saves as the New York Islanders held off the New York Rangers 2-1. Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews scored for the Isles. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal left the game in the second period for precautionary reasons and isn’t expected to miss their qualifying series against the Hurricanes.

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: Howie Kussoy cites multiple reports claiming former Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka’s relationship with the club’s ownership was irrevocably damaged when he lied about having a job interview with the New Jersey Devils, who then were uninterested in hiring him. Chayka resigned from the Coyotes last weekend as the club was preparing to head to Edmonton for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan.

An NHL team approached Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo about a month ago seeking permission to speak to Chayka, which Meruelo rejected. Chayka then reportedly lied to Meruelo about the Devils’ interest, only to subsequently request his contract be terminated so he could pursue an opportunity within the Devils ownership’s sports portfolio.

Meruelo felt betrayed but wanted to wait until the season ended to discuss this with Chayka, but the latter felt that was unreasonable. The situation quickly deteriorated, culminating in Chayka’s departure from the team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has degenerated into a messy they-said/he said situation with each side blaming the other. If Chayka lied about the Devils interview, it could damage his reputation and his efforts to find employment elsewhere in the NHL.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks are taking steps designed to honor Native American culture. They’ve banned headdresses at their games and intend to incorporate Native American culture and education into their arena and the games there. The club has resisted calls to change its nickname and logo after the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced they were moving on from their nickname.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed forward Anders Bjork to a three-year, $4.8-million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins now have over $65.1 million invested in 19 players for 2020-21. Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and team captain Zdeno Chara are among the notables still to be re-signed.

TSN: Former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has taken on a volunteer advisory role with the Vermont Catamounts coaching staff.

LA PRESSE: Montreal Canadiens winger Dale Weise denied a report out of Switzerland claiming he signed a contract with Swiss club HC Lausanne.