NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2022

The Canucks sign Brock Boeser, the Sharks fire head coach Bob Boughner, the Jets hire Rick Bowness as their new bench boss, the Lightning sign Nick Paul, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: The Canucks signed Brock Boeser to a new three-year contract worth an annual average value of $6.65 million. The 25-year-old winger was slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 13. It would’ve cost the Canucks $7.5 million to qualify his rights before then.

Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows that $6.65 million is a flat rate per season. The deal takes him up to unrestricted free agent eligibility and comes with a 10-team no-trade clause in the final season.

It’s a reasonable contract for the Canucks and Boeser. It also shows that management was understanding of the personal difficulties the winger faced this season coping with the knowledge that his father was dying. This deal could pay off for the Canucks if Boeser can reach his 30-goal potential. It would also bolster his stock when he becomes eligible for UFA status.

THE PROVINCE/TSN: The Canucks also signed promising defenseman Jack Rathbone to a two-year, one-way contract worth $850K per season. They also hired former Philadelphia Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo as an assistant coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Boeser and Rathbone signings leave the Canucks with $2.15 million in cap space with 19 players under contract for 2022-23. However, they will get $3.5 million in cap relief if necessary with winger Micheal Ferland on their permanent long-term injury reserve list. Still, I wouldn’t rule out a contract buyout before the July 12 deadline or a cost-cutting trade.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks fired head coach Bob Boughner and his assistant coaches on Friday after three losing seasons. Interim general manager Joe Will said the move was made in part to allow whoever becomes their new GM to have full autonomy in choosing their coaching staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand the logic behind that but I would’ve thought they would’ve made that decision at the end of the regular season. This could an indicator of the difficulty the Sharks are encountering in finding a replacement for former general manager Doug Wilson. Allowing the new GM to hire his own staff might be a means of enticement for suitable candidates.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: The Winnipeg Jets are hiring former Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness as their new bench boss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowness’ hiring should help reduce starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s workload given his adherence to a disciplined defensive system. It’ll be interesting to see if he can heal what’s considered a fractured dressing room in Winnipeg.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed forward Nick Paul to a seven-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million. The deal also comes with a full no-trade clause in the first four seasons and a 16-team no-trade list in the final three years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired from the Ottawa Senators before the trade deadline, Paul quickly established himself as a key member of the Lightning roster, especially during the postseason. The length of this deal reflects how highly they think of him.

The move leaves the Lightning sitting above the $82.5-million salary cap by $5.13 million. They’re allowed to spend over the cap ceiling by 10 percent during the offseason. When the season begins, they can use the $6.875 million of the permanently sidelined Brent Seabrook as cap relief by placing him on their LTIR list.

However, that doesn’t leave sufficient wiggle room to re-sign or replace pending UFAs Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta and Riley Nash. That’s why Lightning management is reportedly looking at trading defenseman Ryan McDonagh and his $6.75-million annual cap hit through 2025-26.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues have hired Craig MacTavish as an assistant coach.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed Julien Gauthier to a one-year contract extension worth $800K. The 24-year-old winger was slated to become a restricted free agent on July 13.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Post noted Gauthier had requested a trade and wondered what impact this signing will have on a potential deal. Perhaps this is part of a “sign-and-trade” move by the Rangers. We’ll find out soon enough.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers goaltender Ivan Fedotov was reportedly arrested in St. Petersburg on suspicion of “dodging the Russian Army”. He was taken to the Russian military registration and enlistment office in St. Petersburg. Chosen by the Flyers in the 2015 draft. The 25-year-old Fedotov spent the past six seasons in the KHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fedotov signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers on May 7. This is an ominous turn for Russian players hoping to skate in the NHL next season. It could also have an effect on the upcoming NHL draft. Teams could be leery of choosing Russian players over concerns they could be prevented from skating in North America.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Speaking of the Flyers, they’ve hired Brad Shaw as an assistant coach.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars have added Alain Nasreddine and Steve Spott as assistant coaches.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Former Red Wings great Pavel Datsyuk expects to officially announce his retirement from professional hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Datsyuk in his retirement. The 43-year-old forward spent the past five seasons playing in the KHL. Before that, Datsyuk spent 14 seasons in the NHL with the Wings, becoming one of the greatest two-way players in the league by winning three Selke Trophies and four Lady Byng Trophies. He also helped the Wings win two Stanley Cups.

CALGARY SUN: Long-time Flames organist Willy Joosen passed away at age 66. He held that role at Scotiabank Saddledome since 1988.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Joosen’s family, friends and the Flames organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2022

The Avalanche stage their Stanley Cup victory parade, the Lightning working on trading Ryan McDonagh and signing Nick Paul, the Red Wings hire Derek Lalonde as head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

THE DENVER POST/COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: The Colorado Avalanche held their Stanley Cup victory parade on June 30 in Denver. During the parade, defenseman Bowen Byram briefly jumped from the fire truck he was riding to mingle with fans along the route. He was nearly prevented from rejoining his teammates by a policeman who thought he was one of the fans.

In other highlights, head coach Jared Bednar gave an emotional speech thanking the Avalanche organization for giving him the opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level. He also praised his players and fellow coaches and thanked the fans for sticking with the club after his difficult first season in 2016-17.

Cale Makar thanked his “underappreciated” defense partner Devon Toews, Mikko Rantanen apologized for “forgetting” how to speak English following the Cup win and drank from a shoe with Artturi Lehkonen, and Nathan MacKinnon joked about finally winning something in his ninth NHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In short, a good time was had by all.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman cites multiple sources claiming the Tampa Bay Lightning are working on a trade with Ryan McDonagh. It’s not a move they want to make but may have to for salary cap reasons. The 33-year-old defenseman is signed through 2025-26 with an annual average value of $6.75 million and a full no-trade clause.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDonagh is still an effective defenseman but won’t be easy to move given his age and contract. The Bolts might have to include a draft pick or prospect to make the deal work.

They’ve also got less than two weeks to pull this off. Free agency begins on July 13 and most teams with available cap space interested in acquiring McDonagh could consider more affordable free-agent options if trade talks fall through.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports that the Lightning are closing in on a multi-year contract with Nick Paul. The 27-year-old forward was acquired from the Ottawa Senators prior to the March 21 trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Paul’s new contract could be one reason why the cap-strapped Lightning are trying to trade McDonagh. He fit in well with the Bolts, especially during the postseason. He reportedly rejected a four-year, $10-million contract offer from the Senators before he was traded. It’ll be interesting to see what he gets from the Lightning.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings have hired Derek Lalonde as their new head coach. He spent the past four seasons as an associate coach with the Lightning and is a former ECHL coach of the year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We shouldn’t be surprised that Wings general manager Steve Yzerman went with a former Lightning coach. He’s the one who hired Lalonde during his tenure as the Bolts GM.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: A Bruins source indicated former Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery could become their new bench boss. ESPN.com’s Kevin Weekes reports he’s been offered a three-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A formal announcement could come as early as today (July 1). Montgomery spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets are reportedly targeting Rick Tocchet as their new head coach. They’ve made him an offer but a deal had yet to be finalized. Tocchet is a former head coach of the Lightning and the Arizona Coyotes.

SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs are open to trading the rights of pending UFA defenseman Ilya Mikheyev.

TSN: The Buffalo Sabres signed goaltender Craig Anderson to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. He was slated to become a UFA on July 13.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blues Jackets acquired gritty forward Mathieu Olivier from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick that the Jackets acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs last year.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars signed goaltender Scott Wedgewood to a two-year contract extension worth $1 million per season. He’ll serve as Jake Oettinger’s backup.

SPORTSNET: Ottawa Senators defenseman Victor Mete released a statement on social media yesterday indicating he was not present at the Hockey Canada gala in 2018 that is now the focus of sexual assault allegations.

Mete, a member of Canada’s World Junior team in 2017-18, said he was deeply troubled by the allegations. He indicated he was vacationing in Jamaica with his family at the time of the alleged incident and only learned about the situation recently through media reports. He added he’d be willing to fully cooperate if requested by those investigating the matter.

Agents for NHL players Cal Foote and Dante Fabbro recently issued statements saying their clients also weren’t involved in the incident.

TSN: Speaking of the Senators, they’ve informed forward Adam Gaudette that he won’t be receiving a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 13. The club also announced they’ve hired Trent Mann and Ryan Bowness (son of former Stars coach Rick Bowness) as assistant general managers.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: The Capitals have promoted Emily Engel-Natzke as their new NHL video coordinator. She becomes the first woman to be hired as part of the full-time coaching staff of an NHL club.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 29, 2022

Are the Penguins in danger of losing Malkin and Letang to free agency? What’s the latest on the Lightning? Could a couple of Golden Knights become offer sheet targets?

ARE MALKIN AND LETANG EDGING CLOSER TO FREE AGENCY?

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman cites The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reporting sources claiming the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t had regular contract talks with Evgeni Malkin since mid-May. A number of agents and several people within the Penguins organization believe the 35-year-old center won’t be returning. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

Yohe also reported the Penguins offered Kris Letang a three-year deal. However, the 35-year-old defenseman wants a five-year contract worth over $8 million annually. Like Malkin, he’s due to become a UFA on July 13.

Malkin was reportedly willing to accept a pay cut from his current $9.5 million annual average value. Letang, meanwhile, seeks a raise over his current $7.25 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A recent report indicated management intends to turn its focus toward Malkin once they’ve sorted out Letang’s situation. That could explain the lack of discussions.

Letang could be pricing himself out of Pittsburgh. What he’s asking for is two years too long for the annual salary he’s seeking. Perhaps the Penguins would agree to $8 million annually for three years. If that’s not acceptable to Letang he could test the market but I don’t see many teams lining up to meet his asking price.

Re-signing both players will bite deeply into the Penguins’ $23.2 million in salary-cap space for 2022-23. Yohe indicated a defenseman such as Marcus Pettersson, John Marino or Brian Dumoulin could become a cost-cutting candidate. One assumes they’d move one of them after signing Malkin and Letang. No sense doing so if one or both end up departing via free agency.

LATEST ON THE LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois indicated during his post-Stanley Cup Final press conference that he’s hopeful of re-signing Ondrej Palat, Nick Paul and Jan Rutta. The trio is slated to become UFAs on July 13.

The Lightning, however, once again has limited salary-cap space. To retain at least Palat and Paul would mean shopping a salaried player to free up sufficient dollars.

Smith believes they have several players with value in the trade market. One of them is Alex Killorn, who has a year remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $4.45 million and a 16-team no-trade clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The one advantage the Lightning have, apart from their championship pedigree, is the lack of a state tax in Florida. That makes it possible for them to sign players for less than market value because their dollars will go further in that state.

Paul was traded by the Senators because he reportedly spurned a four-year, $10 million contract offer. He could seek something between $3.5 and $4 million annually. Palat was earning $5.3 million annually on his current contract. He could get as much if not more on the open market, but maybe the 31-year-old winger will accept a little less to stay put.

Killorn was a frequent subject of trade speculation whenever the issue of the Lightning needing to free up cap room comes up. This time, however, it could become a reality. The 32-year-old winger only managed four points in the postseason but enjoyed a career-high 25 goals and 59 points in the regular season.

COULD TWO GOLDEN KNIGHTS BECOME OFFER SHEET TARGETS?

THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger speculated over whether Nicolas Roy or Nicolas Hague will be targeted for offer sheets by rival clubs. Both players are restricted free agents with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Roy is coming off a career-best 15 goals and 39 points in 2021-22. The 25-year-old forward was on a two-year deal earning $750k annually. Hague, 23, had 14 points in 52 games. The defenseman is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.

The Golden Knights lack salary-cap space at this time to sign both players after shipping out Evgenii Dadonov to Montreal earlier this month. Another cost-cutting move could be on the horizon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy recently reported at least two Eastern Conference clubs had “serious interest” in Hague. That could force the Golden Knights to make that cost-cutting move before he becomes eligible to receive an offer sheet on July 13.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2022

The Lightning reveal their list of injured players, the 2022 draft order is complete, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point suffered a significant tear to a quadriceps muscle during the Stanley Cup playoffs and will require several weeks of recovery.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point (NHL Images)

General manager Julien BriseBois revealed Point wasn’t the only player hampered by injuries during the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare entered the playoffs with an MCL injury in one of his knees. Forwards Anthony Cirelli, Nick Paul and Corey Perry suffered shoulder/AC joint sprains during the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. Cirelli also dislocated his other shoulder while Paul suffered an MCL sprain in the Stanley Cup Final.

Forward Brandon Hagel fractured a foot during the second-round series with the Florida Panthers. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh suffered a mangled finger blocking a shot in the Rangers series.

Nikita Kucherov suffered a sprained MCL in the Stanley Cup Final. BriseBois also said nearly every player on the roster sustained multiple contusions over the course of the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lightning head coach Jon Cooper wasn’t kidding earlier this week when he said they would’ve had to ice half of their minor-league roster if this had been the regular season. Such is the price paid in pursuit of hockey’s greatest price.

NHL.COM: The end of the Stanley Cup Final means the final positions in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft have been set. The Montreal Canadiens hold the first-overall selection having won the draft lottery in May. The Edmonton Oilers hold the No. 29 position and the Winnipeg Jets No. 30 having acquired that pick from the New York Rangers. The Lightning will select 31st overall and the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche will pick 32nd overall.

The draft will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal with the first round on Thursday, July 7 and rounds two through seven on Friday, July 8.

TSN: Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky edged out Canadian center Shane Wright in Bob McKenzie’s final ranking of the top 100 prospects in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wright was considered the top prospect throughout this season and remained so on most final rankings, including NHL Central Scouting’s list.

Bear in mind that whoever is ranked No. 1 doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be chosen by the Canadiens. Quality depth at center has been a longstanding issue for the Habs. While they could select Slafkovsky, I expect they’ll choose Wright or Logan Cooley of the US National Team Development Program.

DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin looks back at the 2012 NHL Draft and what went wrong with top-four picks Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk and Griffin Reinhart.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting review of how the scouts and the teams got it wrong with those players. Because of those flops, there’s a belief the 2012 draft was one of the worst in NHL history. However, Larkin reminds us that Vezina Trophy winners Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck, Lady Byng Trophy winner Jaccob Slavin, puck-moving blueliner Morgan Reilly and scoring winger Filip Forsberg were among the notable stars to emerge from that draft.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: The Golden Knights have added John Stevens, Sean Burke and Mike Rosati to their coaching staff.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Former Bruins center Marc Savard has become in demand to return to the NHL assistant coaching ranks. However, he’s not interested in leaving his job as the bench boss of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires unless he gets an offer to become an NHL head coach.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula is progressing well and recovering from an undisclosed health issue. The family requests their need for privacy continue to be respected during this time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Pegula for a full recovery.

DAILY FACEOFF: Scotiabank and Canadian Tire are pausing their sponsorship of Hockey Canada over a settled lawsuit that stated several OHL players sexually assaulted a woman at a Hockey Canada event in the summer of 2018. Hockey Canada has come under fire for its handling of the investigation and the lawsuit, including the federal government passing a motion calling for an independent investigation of the organization.

THE ATHLETIC: Sportsnet has confirmed it is canceling its Hometown Hockey series after eight seasons. Host Ron MacLean will be returning full-time to “Hockey Night in Canada”. It is not immediately clear what the cancellation means for co-host Tara Stone.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2022

What next for the Avalanche and Lightning following the Stanley Cup Final? What’s the latest on the Islanders and Sabres? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE AND LIGHTNING?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Kristen Shilton looked at what the offseason could hold for the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning following the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).

Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has some notable free agents to deal with, starting with forwards Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin. Both are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 13 and are coming off strong regular-season and playoff performances.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, winger Andre Burakovsky and defenseman Josh Manson could receive lucrative offers from other clubs in the upcoming free-agent market. Trade deadline acquisition Artturi Lehkonen is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility.

Hanging over all of his is the knowledge that superstar center Nathan MacKinnon is a year away from UFA eligibility. Sakic must manage his future cap space carefully and might have to get creative if they hope to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche have a solid core next season in MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram. However, maintaining their supporting cast could be challenging.

Cap Friendly shows the Avalanche with over $25 million in salary cap space with 14 players under contract for 2022-23. They’re enough room to re-sign Kadri, Nichushkin, Kuemper and Manson but it will eat up most of that cap space as well as bite deeply into their available space for 2023-24 when MacKinnon will be due for a big raise on a long-term deal.

Sakic might keep one of those key UFAs. It could be Kadri to ensure their depth at center but he could price himself out of their market. It could be Kuemper to maintain their solid goalie tandem with Pavel Francouz. I don’t think Burakovsky and Manson will be back.

My guess is Nichushkin is the most likely to return. Sakic took a chance on him after the Dallas Stars bought him out and he found his game with the Avs. He’s completing a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per season and should be the more affordable to retain.

The Lightning’s decisions start with pending UFAs Ondrej Palat, Nick Paul and Jan Rutta. They’re up against the salary cap once again with 19 players under contract for next season. That makes a major roster overhaul unlikely.

Like Sakic, GM Julien BriseBois will have to use some creativity to maximize his bargaining power. He’ll need to decide if he’s happy with the club’s current depth, especially on the blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois has proven skillful at finding inventive ways to maintain a championship roster. That ability will once again be put to the test.

The Lightning will get some wiggle room with Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million) on permanent long-term injury reserve. Still, it’s unlikely BriseBois be able to bring back all three of those UFAs. I expect BriseBois will put his efforts into signing Palat.

COULD THE ISLES SHOP BEAUVILLIER FOR A DEFENSEMAN?

THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz recently pondered the possibility of the New York Islanders shopping Anthony Beauvillier for help on their blueline. While the 25-year-old winger’s development has stalled, he’s still young enough to improve. He also carries a reasonable $4.15 million annual cap hit for the next two seasons and lacks no-trade protection.

Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Sebastian Aho and Grant Hutton have likely played their final games for the Islanders. There are questions over whether those in the system, such as Robin Salo and Samuel Bolduc, are ready to move up.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun could be a trade target. Most Isles fans polled by Kurz would be fine with bundling Beauvillier with their first-round pick (13th overall) in this year’s draft for Chychrun, though Kurz believes the Coyotes would want a prospect included in the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders aren’t the only team expected to have an interest in Chychrun. However, the Coyotes have set a very high asking price. Beauvillier, a first and a prospect might not be enough to land him. I suspect GM Lou Lamoriello will explore more affordable options if he uses the winger as trade bait for a blueliner.

LATEST ON THE SABRES

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington doesn’t see the Sabres using their plentiful salary-cap space to pursue a big-ticket UFA like Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. He also doesn’t see them pursuing Marc-Andre Fleury to bolster their goaltending depth if Craig Anderson decides he’s not returning.

He doesn’t see the Sabres being interested in Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper. Toronto’s Jack Campbell might want a deal of three or four years and the Sabres aren’t interested in that type of term. He also believes St. Louis’ Ville Husso will want dollars and term that the Sabres aren’t interested in handing out.

Harrington advocates pursuing Braden Holtby to share the goalie duties and mentor promising Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen, suggesting they offer up a two-year, $8 million deal. It would also help the Sabres reach the $61 million salary-cap minimum.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see who the Sabres bring in to share the goalie duties with Luukkonen if Anderson hangs up his pads. The focus seems to remain on building up with their younger players, though I do see them adding affordable veterans to provide depth and leadership for next season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2022

The Lightning, Oilers and Hurricanes advance to the second round. Check out the recaps of Saturday’s action in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their first-round series. Nick Paul tallied both goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for the Lightning as they took the series four games to three. Morgan Rielly replied for the Maple Leafs.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a well-earned victory for the Lightning as they continue their quest to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups since the 1982 New York Islanders. Vasilevskiy seemed ordinary through most of this series but he stepped up in Game 7. With their best scorers neutralized, the Bolts got timely goals from Paul, a depth player acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline.

It was a costly win for the Lightning, however, as Braydon Point suffered a leg injury late in the first period and spent the remainder of the game on the bench. No word yet as to whether he’ll be sidelined for their upcoming series against the Florida Panthers but it would be a significant loss for the Bolts if he is.

As for the Leafs, their postseason series drought is now at 18 years. This disappointing loss, however, is unlike this current group’s previous ones. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, they were a young team on the rise going up against better, more experienced opponents in the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. They underachieved against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2020 playoff bubble while overconfidence cost them last year against the Montreal Canadiens.

This time, the Leafs pushed the defending Stanley Cup champions to the limit with their best players performing well. It was a very entertaining series but the Leafs failed to put the Lightning away in this contest and in Game 6 when they held a 3-2 series lead.

There were calls last year from fans and pundits for the Leafs to make big changes following their stunning collapse against the Canadiens. The front office ignored those cries and focused instead on building up around the core. It’ll be interesting to see what they do this time. I’ll have more in the Sunday NHL rumor mill.

Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist while Mike Smith kicked out 29 shots to shut out the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in Game 7 of their first-round series. Cody Ceci also scored for the Oilers, who will face off against the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars in the second round. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 39 saves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers could’ve won this 6-0 if not for Quick’s outstanding goaltending. They dominated the Kings with McDavid leading the way as they advance to the second round for the first time since 2017. There were concerns before this game whether Leon Draisaitl would play following a leg injury in Game 6 but he was in the lineup and picked up an assist on the Ceci goal.

The Kings exceeded expectations in this series, pushing the favored Oilers to the limit. Their performance in this series can be used as a building block going forward. However, it marks the end of Dustin Brown’s 18-season NHL career, all of them spent with the Kings. He announced last month that he would retire following the postseason. The former Kings captain leaves as one of the best players in franchise history after leading them to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.

The Carolina Hurricanes are marching on to the second round after holding off the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 7 of their opening-round series. Max Domi scored twice and Antti Raanta made 27 saves in his first Game 7 appearance. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins. Having taken this series four games to three, the Hurricanes await the winner of the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The home team won each game in this series. Raanta was the series MVP for the Hurricanes, filling in for sidelined starter Frederik Andersen and shaking off an injury suffered in Game 2. The Hurricanes got clutch scoring from a trade deadline acquisition in Domi, who finished this contest with three points in what was perhaps his best performance as an NHL player.

Among the questions facing the Bruins heading into the offseason is the future of captain Patrice Bergeron. The long-time Bruins star is an unrestricted free agent this summer and remains among the league’s best two-way forwards. However, there’s speculation the 36-year-old center could retire or perhaps sign elsewhere if he and the Bruins fail to reach an agreement on a new contract. I’ll have more about that in today’s rumor mill.