NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2021

Jonathan Huberdeau enjoys a five-point performance for the Panthers, the latest COVID wave’s ongoing effect upon the schedule, and Max Pacioretty sidelined indefinitely in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jonathan Huberdeau collected five points (one goal, four assists) as the Florida Panthers romped to a 9-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the fourth five-point performance of Huberdeau’s career. Anthony Duclair scored two goals and Spencer Knight picked up the win with 39 saves. The Panthers (44 points) moved to within two points of the Lightning for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau (NHL Images).

The Carolina Hurricanes blanked the depleted Montreal Canadiens 4-0 with Antti Raanta making 26 saves for this first shutout of the season. Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho collected two assists for his sixth straight multi-point game while Teuvo Teravainen scored twice. Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period while Jonathan Drouin missed the game with a non-COVID-related illness.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens began this game with just three players with salary-cap hits over $1 million. That dropped to two when Gallagher was sidelined. It’s the latest lowlight in a season of suck for the hapless Habs.

A shootout goal by Gustav Nyquist lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine scored in his return to action since being sidelined by injury on Nov. 3 and the recent passing of his father. Matt Duchene collected two assists for the Predators.

Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists in his return from COVID protocol as his New York Islanders downed the Buffalo Sabres 4-1. Barzal extended his points streak to seven games. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov kicked out 36 shots.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau had two goals as his club downed the Seattle Kraken 6-4. Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each finished the night with three points. Kraken captain Mark Giordano also collected three points (one goal, two assists) in his first game against his former club.

The Vancouver Canucks suffered their first loss under head coach Bruce Boudreau as they dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings with Viktor Arvidsson tallying the game-winner. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves in a losing cause for the Canucks, who remain unbeaten in eight regulation games (7-0-1).

Tomas Hertl’s overtime goal gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Hertl now has points in eight straight games. Flyers goalie Felix Sandstrom turned aside 36 shots in his NHL debut. With the win, the Sharks (35 points) moved within a point of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

LATEST NHL COVID HEADLINES

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he still believes the league will complete a full 82-game schedule despite the recent outbreak of the Omicron version of COVID-19. He indicated the schedule is being revised to use what would’ve been the Olympic break in February to fill replacement dates for recently postponed games.

Daly remains hopeful that by mid-January there should be a normalization of the schedule. Nevertheless, he acknowledged it’s been a daily balancing act in recent weeks given how quickly the latest COVID outbreaks have spread around the league.

Regarding attendance restrictions for Canadian clubs, Daly said the league is trying to be as cooperative and flexible as possible when it comes to making up those games or moving them. They’re exploring all alternatives, including playing those games in empty home arenas or on the road until local restrictions are lifted.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of attendance restrictions for Canadian teams, the Ontario government yesterday announced stadium capacity will be reduced to 1,000 fans. They also announced the reduction of isolation for fully-vaccinated people with COVID symptoms from 10 days to five if those symptoms improve and all public health and safety measures are followed.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced there will be no sold tickets for Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors home games for at least the next three weeks.

TSN’s Gord Miller yesterday reported Canadian-based NHL teams are asking the league to shift their home dates to later in the season.

NHL.COM: The number of postponed games reached 81 with the league announcing Sunday’s contest between the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes will be rescheduled for COVID-related reasons.

SPORTSNET: has the latest updated list of NHL players and coaching staff in COVID protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing wrist surgery. Pacioretty has missed 17 games earlier this season with a broken foot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could have an effect upon the Golden Knights’ possible plans for freeing up cap space for Jack Eichel’s anticipated February return from neck surgery.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier (upper body) is listed as week-to-week after being placed on injured reserve.

CBS SPORTS: New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri (lower body) was placed on injured reserve backdated to Dec. 16. There’s no timetable for his return.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild announced multi-year contract extensions for head coach Dean Evason and his staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Evason and his staff have done a fine job since last season turning around the Wild. They finished with last season’s ninth-best record and are just two points out of first place entering tomorrow’s Winter Classic at Target Field against the St. Louis Blues.

ESPN.COM: Canadia women’s hockey player Brigette Lacquette has been hired as a scout by the Chicago Blackhawks. She becomes the first Indigenous woman to become an NHL scout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Lacquette, who also made history in 2018 by becoming the first First Nations woman to play for Canada’s Women’s Olympic hockey team.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 2, 2021

The Islanders sign five free agents, Colton Parayko inks a lengthy contract extension with the Blues, Jack Johnson gets a tryout with the Avalanche, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: After weeks of speculation, the New York Islanders yesterday officially announced the signings of unrestricted free agents Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas and of restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier.

Anthony Beauvillier was among four players signed to new contracts by the New York Islanders on Sep. 1. (NHL Images)

Palmieri received a four-year, $20 million contract, Beauvillier agreed to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $4.15 million while Sorokin accepted a three-year, $12 million agreement. Details of Cizikas’ contract (six years, $15 million) were leaked to the media the day prior.

The Islanders haven’t officially announced a contract for Zach Parise but the former Minnesota Wild winger confirmed he agreed to terms earlier this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Islanders sitting over $3.7 million above the $81.5 million salary cap. However, they’ll address that issue for the coming season by placing permanently sidelined defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million annual cap hit on long-term injury reserve.

The annual cap hits of these deals are reasonable. The term of Cizikas’ contract is unusually long for a 30-year-old checking-line center even if he is among the league’s best in that role. As I suggested yesterday, the longer term was probably what it took for the Isles to get him to accept a $2.5 million AAV.

It’ll be interesting to see what Parise’s contract will look like. There’s conjecture it’ll be a one-year deal for between $750K to $1.5 million because of the buyout dollars he’ll be getting from the Wild.

These signings will likely put the kibosh on rumors linking the Isles to St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. However, there are other needs general manager Lou Lamoriello could still attempt to address before the season opens next month. I’ll have more on that in today’s Rumor Mill.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed Colton Parayko to an eight-year, $52 million contract extension. The 28-year-old defenseman will receive an annual average value of $6.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a major investment in Parayko though the annual cap hit is just $1 million more than his current one. A back injury affected his play last season but the 6’6, 230-pounder is a solid all-around blueliner when healthy. The report indicates he’s fully recovered and ready for the coming season.

Having lost Alex Pietrangelo to the Vegas Golden Knights via free agency last fall, the Blues didn’t want to run that risk with Parayko, who was eligible for UFA status next summer. GM Doug Armstrong said he saw what some defensemen were getting this summer and decided to get him under contract now. A wise decision on Armstrong’s part considering the big rearguard could’ve received offers worth around $9 million on the open market next July.

THE DENVER POST: Jack Johnson will attend the upcoming Colorado Avalanche training camp on a professional tryout offer. He played 13 games with the New York Rangers last season until sidelined by core muscle surgery. The 34-year-old defenseman was bought out last fall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report suggests Johnson will be a long shot to crack the Avs defense corps. However, a solid training camp and preseason with the Avs could help him land a contract with another club.

TSN: The Seattle Kraken signed unrestricted free agent forward Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $850K contract.

Rick Westhead reports the Chicago Blackhawks have resolved a lawsuit by an Illinois man claiming the club inappropriately used facial recognition software to obtain and store his biometric data. The plaintiff has decided to withdraw the suit.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Adam Proteau remembers the victims of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv plane crash that took place on Sep. 7, 2011. Among those who perished were coaches Brad McCrimmon, Igor Koralev and Alexander Karpovtsev and former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since that tragic day. Writing out their names today, it’s still difficult to acknowledge they’re no longer with us.










Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Little Notable Talent Still Available in 2021 NHL Free Agent Market

Cap Friendly shows slim pickings for talent three weeks after the NHL annual free-agent market opened on July 28. As usual, most of the top players were quickly signed within hours of the market opening, with the remainder snapped up over the next several days.

Several recognizable names remain but almost all are now past their playing prime. With training camps set to open in a little over a month, those still available could end up accepting cheap one-year deals or professional tryout offers in hope of landing a contract.

Still, for teams seeking experienced depth at bargain-bin prices, several noteworthy options remain obtainable.

Tuukka Rask is among several notable players still available in the 2021 NHL free-agent market (NHL Images).

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask is sidelined until the New Year recovering from off-season hip surgery. It’s believed he’s only interested in returning with the Boston Bruins, who could keep a spot open for him. The former Vezina Trophy winner could be worth pursuing later this season if he and the Bruins part ways before the trade deadline.

Devan Dubnyk is still waiting for a contract. The 35-year-old struggled as a backup last season with the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Still, he could be worth the gamble on a PTO for teams with a young starter seeking an experienced mentor.

Henrik Lundqvist hinted he’d be up to a comeback if he receives medical clearance. Heart surgery sidelined him for all of last season. The 39-year-old “King Henrik” is no longer an elite netminder but could be a worthwhile backup if he gets a clean bill of health.

Defensemen

Zdeno Chara had a good performance last season as a third-pairing defensemen with the Washington Capitals. The 44-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is training in Slovakia and hasn’t made any decisions about this season. He’d bring plenty of experience and leadership to any blueline if he decides to return for one more year.

Jason Demers could be a worthwhile addition for teams seeking an experienced third-pairing right-shot defender. The same goes for Sami Vatanen though his long injury history hurts his value.

Erik Gustafsson’s puck-moving abilities could be useful for teams looking for a power-play specialist on the blue line. Erik Gudbranson’s toughness and leadership keep earning him work despite the decline in his defensive game.

Forwards

Zach Parise, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Casey Cizikas are still available but speculation suggests they’ve already been signed by the New York Islanders. It’s believed Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want his rivals to know how much cap space he’s actually got left as rumors persist he’s shopping for a top-six forward.

Assuming those four are off the market, well-known but fading forwards such as Patrick Marleau, Eric Staal, Bobby Ryan and James Neal are available. Other noteworthy forwards among the 30-plus gang include Tyler Bozak, Artem Anisimov, Tyler Ennis, and Alex Chiasson.

Alex Galchenyuk heads the list of younger options in the mid-to-late twenties. There was talk the Toronto Maple Leafs could bring the 27-year-old forward back but it appears he’ll be seeking work elsewhere. Ryan Donato, Dominik Kahun, Riley Sheahan and Jimmy Vesey round out this group.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

A look at the best players still available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: listed the best available UFAs still available.

The notable goaltenders include Tuukka Rask, wingers Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, centers Casey Cizikas, Travis Zajac, Ryan Donato and Alex Galchenyuk, and defensemen Jason Demers, Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox took a more in-depth look at the top-10 UFA still on the market.

Will Tuukka Rask return with the Boston Bruins this season? (NHL Images)

Rask’s future depends on his recovery from offseason hip surgery. If he does return, he’s indicated it’ll only be with the Boston Bruins. In his absence, the Bruins will start the season with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goalie tandem.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The writing appears on the wall with Ullmark signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the Bruins. If Rask is ready to return later this season, they could go with him and Ullmark as their tandem and demote Swayman as he’s waiver-exempt this season.

Palmieri, Cizikas and Zajac are believed to have handshake agreements with the New York Islanders but those agreements haven’t been officially announced yet. There’s also talk they’ve signed winger Zach Parise, who was bought out last month by the Minnesota Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Consensus among most pundits is Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has most or all of those aforementioned players under contract. It’s believed those deals haven’t been officially announced because he doesn’t want his rival GMs to know how much salary-cap space he actually has left.

It’s the same tactic Lamoriello took during the last offseason with Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Those deals weren’t officially announced until just before the start of last season.

That’s fueled speculation the Isles GM is working on a trade. It could be for a winger like St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko or a left-side, top-four defenseman to replace Nick Leddy, who was traded to Detroit last month.

Chara is spending the offseason in his native Slovakia with his family. His agent said his client is working out hard and keeping all his options open. During his season-ending Zoom call, however, the big defenseman seemed uncertain about returning for a 24th NHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara had a decent season with the Washington Capitals but it was obvious the 44-year-old blueliner was slowing down. If he does return it would be on an affordable one-year deal and in a third-pairing role.

Fox indicated the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t fully closed the door on bringing back Galchenyuk. He also said the Montreal Canadiens were said to have some level of interest in a reunion.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think there’s a fit for Galchenyuk with either club. Both have limited cap space and have already invested in other low-cost options.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2021

Catching up on some notable late trades and free-agent signings, including the Avalanche acquiring Darcy Kuemper, plus a look at the notable free-agents still available in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes traded goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third-round pick in 2024.

Arizona Coyotes trade goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche needed a suitable replacement for Philipp Grubauer after he signed with the Seattle Kraken yesterday. They had to move quickly as several teams had some interest in Kuemper. That’s why Avs general manager Joe Sakic paid such a steep price to get him.

In the short term, the 31-year-old Kuemper should offset Grubauer’s absence provided he can stay healthy. He’s been sidelined in recent seasons by a variety of injuries and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong, meanwhile, is doing a superb job trimming payroll while laying the groundwork to restock his prospect pipeline. Timmins is a promising young defenseman who could be a good fit on this rebuilding team. The Coyotes now have two first-round picks and five second-rounders in next year’s draft. They could get more when Armstrong starts shopping some of his pending unrestricted free agents at next year’s trade deadline.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals reacquired goaltender Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Kraken selected Vanecek during last week’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting back Vanecek maintains the Capitals’ goalie tandem from last season. His reacquisition spares them from shopping for a backup goalie that would’ve cost more than Vanecek’s $716, 667 salary-cap hit.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins traded goaltender Dan Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 third-round pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The signing of Linus Ullmark and the emergence of Jeremy Swayman made Vladar the odd man out among the Bruins goaltenders, especially if they bring back Tuukka Rask next year following his recovery from hip surgery.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed veteran goaltenders Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell to one-year contracts.

SPORTSNET: The Sabres also acquired defenseman Will Butcher and a 2022 fifth-round pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for future considerations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I published a list yesterday of most of the notable free-agent signings and trades. You can read my take on yesterday’s top-10 signings here.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: David Krejci, Kyle Palmieri and Brandon Saad are among the best players still available in the free-agent market. Others include Tomas Tatar and Zach Parise.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman ranks the winners and losers from the opening day of free agency.

TSN: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is hopeful of returning to action in 2021-22 once he receives medical clearance to do so. The 39-year-old goaltender signed last season with the Washington Capitals but heart surgery sidelined him for the entire campaign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be interest in Lundqvist if he’s cleared to resume playing. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a contract with a playoff contender.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed head coach D.J. Smith to a two-year contract extension.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton topped Frank Seravalli’s recent list of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell indicated in March the two sides agreed to put aside contract talks until the end of this season. Sources claimed a big gap exists between how much the Hurricanes are willing to pay and what Hamilton’s camp believes is his market value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it makes little sense for the Hurricanes to sign Hamilton before the expansion draft. That would mean protecting him at the expense of perhaps losing blueliner Jake Bean to the Seattle Kraken.

However, the Kraken has a three-day window before the expansion draft to interview pending free agents. Things could get interesting if Hamilton is willing to listen to what they could offer.

Seravalli excluded Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Colorado Avalanche winger Gabriel Landeskog from this list. There’s no indication either player will be leaving their respective clubs. Both would impact their team’s expansion protection lists if they sign before July 21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs could be comfortable waiting until after July 21 to re-sign them if both players are determined to stay put.

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf was also excluded. The Ducks are open to having him return for another season but it remains to be seen if he’ll look elsewhere to chase another Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf, 36, could be back for one more year. Several factors – including his family, his health and his willingness to accept a lesser role with the rebuilding Ducks – will determine his future.

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman and Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers hope to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins but that will depend on what he’s seeking in terms of salary. He’s completing a seven-year, $42 million contract. Barrie’s future in Edmonton is less clear.

Mutual interest exists between Hall and the Bruins in talking contract after this season but that will depend on his playoff performance. Hyman wants to stay in Toronto and the Leafs want to keep him but their limited salary-cap space could be an issue.

Seravalli includes former Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet on his list at No. 6. He believes Tocchet will draw interest from multiple teams.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault and Florida Panthers forward Alexander Wennberg fill out the top-ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask on a short-term deal if he’ll accept less than his current annual average value of $7 million. Martinez and Danault face uncertain futures with their current clubs as there’s little indication of contract talks. Wennberg rejuvenated his career in Florida. Panthers GM Bill Zito knows him from their days with the Jackets, signed him last fall, and could ink him to a new deal.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman, Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Blake Coleman checked in at Nos. 11 to 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the Sabres hope to re-sign Ullmark. Whether he wants to stay is another matter. Hoffman was hoping a big season in St. Louis would bolster his stock in this summer’s UFA market. His inconsistent play, however, could put a lucrative new deal further out of reach.

Recent reports out of Edmonton suggest the Oilers are close to a new deal with Larsson. Andersen’s injury history and his uneven playoff performances could hurt his value but not enough to prevent him from landing with another NHL club. Coleman’s physical two-way style and decent scoring touch will draw plenty of attention if he tests the market.

Colorado Avalanche winger Brandon Saad, Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, New York Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri, and Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak fill in spots 16 to 20.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs likely won’t have the cap space to re-sign Saad as they’ll be keeping Landeskog plus goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar must be signed. The Blues prefer to keep Schwartz but their limited cap space will make it difficult to do.

Granlund could be an affordable re-signing for the Predators. Palmieri’s stock took a tumble in the regular season but could rebound with a strong postseason effort. The Stars could part ways with Oleksiak as they’ll need their limited cap room to re-sign blueliner Miro Heiskanen.

Bruins center David Krejci, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar, Lightning defenseman David Savard and Bruins blueliner Mike Reilly are in spots 21-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could re-sign Krejci on an affordable short-term deal, especially if they can also retain Taylor Hall. The Jets could retain Stastny if he’s agreeable to a cost-effective contract.

The Canadiens will likely cut ties with the inconsistent Tatar. Savard was a playoff rental for the Lightning as was Reilly with the Bruins. Savard will draw interest from clubs seeking a shutdown blueliner.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci, Arizona Coyotes blueliner Alex Goligoski, Leafs forward Nick Foligno, Canadiens winger Corey Perry and Coyotes forward Michael Bunting complete the top 30.