The Blues name their new captain, the latest on Flyers forwards Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, the Canadiens and Canucks make a trade on the eve of the start of training camps, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
STLTODAY.COM: Brayden Schenn was named as the 24th captain in St. Louis Blues history. The club made the announcement yesterday. Schenn, 32, spent the past six seasons with the Blues and was an alternate captain for the past three campaigns. He’s under contract for five more seasons.
St. Louis Blues captain Brayden Schenn (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt that anyone was surprised that Schenn got the nod for the captaincy. A durable, versatile and reliable forward, he’s reached or exceeded 50 points five times over the past six seasons. Schenn’s been in a leadership role with the Blues for several seasons so this was probably an easy choice for the club.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers general manager Daniel Briere said Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson are good to go when training camp opens on Thursday. The two veteran forwards missed all of last season due to injuries. Both players were scrimmaging with teammates prior to the start of camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s good news for the Flyers’ forward depth as they approach this season. It will also provide Briere with an opportunity to evaluate the performances of Couturier and Atkinson to determine their place and role in the club’s rebuilding process.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins last month as part of the three-team Erik Karlsson trade, DeSmith wasn’t expected to start this season with the Canadiens.
Pearson is a veteran middle-six winger who’s in the final season of his contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He could become a bargaining chip for the rebuilding Habs by the March 8 trade deadline if he’s fully recovered from the hand injury that ended his 2022-23 campaign and plays well this season.
The Canucks, meanwhile, get a reliable backup for starting goalie Thatcher Demko while freeing up much-needed cap space. This move should also make them salary-cap compliant to start the season. Like Pearson, DeSmith is slated to become a UFA next July. Perhaps a solid performance will earn him a contract extension with the Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coming off his entry-level contract and an inconsistent rookie season, Addison had no leverage with the cap-strapped Wild. The 23-year-old defenseman will need a better effort in his sophomore campaign to garner a better contract next summer when he’ll have arbitration rights.
TSN: The Senators re-signed forward Egor Sokolov to a one-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $775K at the NHL level.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators are reportedly no closer to signing restricted free-agent center Shane Pinto as they report for training camp today. It’ll be interesting to see how long these negotiations go on. The 22-year-old Pinto has also surfaced in recent trade rumors but reports out of Ottawa claim the two sides are still working toward a new contract.
TSN: cited a report in The Athletic indicating the Chicago Blackhawks will not be naming a captain for this season. The club parted ways this summer with long-time captain Jonathan Toews.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report noted that Seth Jones was keen to become the next Blackhawks captain. His performance this season could determine if he lands the role next season.
Patrick Kane in Detroit doesn’t make sense, the Senators and Canucks could be busy soon in the trade market, and the projected date of the 2024 trade deadline is revealed. Check out the latest in the NHL Rumor Mill.
Stockton duly noted the report by Chicago Daily Herald’s John Dietz, who cited a source close to Kane claiming the winger would sign with the Red Wings to be reunited with DeBrincat. He also noted Dietz added a qualifier that there would have to be mutual interest from the Red Wings for this to happen.
According to Stockton, any reunion of Kane and DeBrincat in Detroit would lean heavily on nostalgia. He pointed out that the New York Rangers bringing in Kane late last season failed to recreate the offensive chemistry the winger once had with Artemi Panarin during the latter’s tenure with the Blackhawks.
Kane’s health and age are also factors that would work against it. Stockton pointed out that TSN’s Chris Johnston indicated the future Hall-of-Famer wants to see which teams will be the best fit when he’s fully recovered from his June hip resurfacing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Prior to Dietz’s report, most in the media believed Kane’s preference would be signing with a club that would give him the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup this season. If that’s the case, the Red Wings won’t be on his radar unless they break out like the New Jersey Devils did last season.
COST-CUTTING MOVES COMING FOR SENATORS AND CANUCKS?
The Senators are pressed against the $83.5 million salary cap with restricted free agent center Shane Pinto to re-sign. Pinto, 22, is coming off his entry-level contract and carries little leverage. He’s also not eligible to receive an offer sheet as he’s on a 10.2 (c) contract, meaning he didn’t accrue a sufficient number of NHL games played to become eligible for Group 2 RFA status.
Meanwhile, the Canucks could be looking at clearing some cap room as winger Tanner Pearson is expected to be healthy for the coming season after missing most of 2022-23 with an injured hand. He carries an average annual value of $3.25 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how both clubs handle this. They could free up some space by placing some players on waivers or demoting them to their farm team. Dumping salary through trades is another option.
Senators forward Mathieu Joseph popped up in this summer’s rumor mill as a trade candidate. He has an AAV of $2.95 million and is under contract through 2025-26.
Moving Pearson and his cap hit could be difficult given he’s coming off a serious injury. Wingers Brock Boeser ($6.65 million AAV) and Conor Garland ($4.95 million) have been mentioned in the past as trade possibilities but I doubt the Canucks will try to move either guy in this situation.
Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers is another frequent subject of trade rumors but his $6 million cap hit for this season and his 10-team no-trade clause are big obstacles. There was speculation of a deal that would send him to the San Jose Sharks on Sept. 15 once his $5 million signing bonus was paid by the Canucks. We’ll find out soon enough if that’s the case.
2024 NHL TRADE DEADLINE REVEALED
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline is projected to be Friday, March 8, 2024.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mark your calendars, folks. You can turn this into a nice long weekend if you can get the time off from work or school.
NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW:Jesper Bratt recently explained to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he used the pressure of his two short-term contracts as motivation to justify that he was worthy of a long-term deal.
New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).
“I liked going into the summer pressuring myself a little more,” said Bratt. “Okay, I have to prove myself. I gotta work harder, I gotta show them how good I am.”
The result was back-to-back 73-point campaigns for Bratt, including breaking the 30-goal plateau last season for the first time. Earlier this summer, the 25-year-old winger signed an eight-year, $63-million contract ($7.875 million average annual value).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bratt acknowledged his new challenge will be justifying his lucrative new contract. He’ll have little difficulty doing that if he remains a 30-goal, 70-plus-point winger.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets forward Gabriel Vilardi arrived in Winnipeg last week to begin preparation for training camp later this month. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in June as part of the Pierre-Luc Dubois, the 24-year-old Vilardi claimed to be unaware of the club’s soap opera over the past two seasons over a perceived lack of accountability and leadership among the players.
Vilardi claimed he was surprised to find out that the Jets didn’t have a captain last season. “I thought Mark Scheifele was the captain. I don’t even know. That gives you my answer,” he said, going on to say that he uses that line often.
“I’m here to play hockey. That’s my job. From what I’ve seen so far, Winnipeg isn’t that bad. We’ll see the winter.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vilardi was the key piece in the four-asset return that the Jets received from the Kings for Dubois. He’s coming off a career-best performance of 24 goals and 41 points in 63 games. His performance this season could play a crucial role in the Jets’ playoff hopes for this season.
VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: Rob Simpson reports Canucks winger Tanner Pearson feels he’s 100 percent recovered from the hand injury that limited him to just 14 games last season. That could create a salary-cap crunch for the Canucks, who are currently some $4.4 million over the $83.5 million cap. Pearson, 31, carries a $3.25 million AAV for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pearson was mentioned earlier this year as a potential trade candidate if he was ready to return for the start of this season. Those rumors could surface again if he is indeed good to go for 2023-24.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators and Shane Pinto aren’t close to a new contract. However, it’s hoped the restricted free agent center will be signed soon. NHL training camps open on Sept. 21.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pinto, 22, completed his entry-level contract last season. It was his first full NHL campaign and he showed promise with 20 goals and 35 points in 83 games. The Senators, however, are bumping up against the cap.
The Senators can exceed the cap by 10 percent until the start of the season when they must be cap compliant. Signing Pinto will mean clearing some cap space via demotions and/or trade.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Flyers president Keith Jones said his club was getting close to a new contract for Morgan Frost. The 24-year-old center completed his ELC last season. He had 19 goals and 46 points in 81 games in 2022-23. “Morgan’s an important player for us in the future. That will work itself out,” said Jones.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Speaking of the Flyers, 2023 first-round pick Matvei Michkov was a healthy scratch for SKA St. Peterburg’s KHL season-opening on Saturday. Chosen seventh overall by the Flyers, the 18-year-old winger is considered one of Russia’s top hockey prospects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news caused a bit of a stir yesterday on hockey Twitter..er, sorry, “X”. A scoring winger, Michkov was apparently scratched because of his defensive play.
I wouldn’t put too much stock into Michkov getting benched unless this becomes a trend over the course of this KHL season. He’s under contract with SKA St. Petersburg through 2025-26. There’s plenty of time for this kid to develop his game before joining the Flyers, provided his KHL club will let him go.
SPECTOR’S NOTE Bowey’s last NHL season was in 2021-22 with the Vancouver Canucks, playing two games with them and spending the rest of the season with their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. He spent last season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
The 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees are announced, salary cap only rising by $1 million for 2023-24, plus updates on Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Josh Bailey and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
2023 HOCKEY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES ANNOUNCED
NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist, Tom Barrasso, Pierre Turgeon and Mike Vernon were the former NHL players among the inductees in the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. Canadian women’s star Caroline Ouellette, former NHL coach Ken Hitchcock and former Colorado Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix were also among the seven inductees. The formal induction ceremony will be held in Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13.
Tom Barrasso is among the seven inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 (NHL.com).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to all the inductees for this well-deserved honor.
It was long-overdue recognition for Barrasso, Turgeon and Vernon after being passed over for years. None of them say it coming. When Vernon got the call from Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald, he joked that he thought McDonald was inviting him for a golf game. Barrasso, meanwhile, admitted he wasn’t sitting by the phone awaiting the call.
Once again, deserving former NHL stars such as Alexander Mogilny, Butch Goring, Patrik Elias, Rod Brind’Amour and Keith Tkachuk were passed over. Perhaps one of them will get their due next year.
TSN: As expected, the NHL salary cap for 2023-24 is going to rise by just $1 million to $83.5 million. The cap has been flattened since 2020-21 as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for extending the collective bargaining agreement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per the MOU, the cap remained at $81.5 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22, rising to $82.5 million in 2022-23 and $83.5 million in 2023-24. There was some hope that the cap would increase by more than the projected $1 million if the players had fully repaid the escrow owed to the team owners resulting from the pandemic-shortened seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Following the 2023-24 season, the salary cap is projected to significantly increase by at least $4 million. It could rise even higher given the boost to hockey-related revenue over the past two years arising from new broadcasting deals and the addition of the Seattle Kraken.
NHL.COM: The Buffalo Sabres hope to re-sign Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power to contract extensions and the feeling is mutual. Both defensemen have a year remaining on their respective contracts and can re-sign on July 1.
Dahlin is slated to become a restricted free agent next July with arbitration rights coming off his three-year bridge contract. At the same time, Power will be completing his entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coming off their best season in years, this is a heady time for the Sabres and their fans. After years of often painful rebuilding, the club is on the cusp of becoming a playoff contender thanks to exciting young talent like Dahlin and Power.
The Sabres already have forwards Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens under reasonable long-term contracts. Getting Dahlin and Power locked up to lengthy new deals will ensure this team has a solid base of core talent to build on going forward.
GOPHNX.COM’s Craig Morgan tweeted that sources said there is no truth to reports suggesting the Arizona Coyotes have an interest in New York Islanders winger Josh Bailey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have a history of taking troublesome contracts from cap-strapped teams packaged with draft picks which they’ve stockpiled to build up their prospect pipeline. However, the Bailey rumor sounds like some folks were spitballing for ways that the Islanders can free up cap space for next season.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin said Tanner Pearson is making progress in his recovery from a hand injury that sidelined him for most of last season. He indicated that the 30-year-old winger is preparing himself for training camp in September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pearson’s playing career was thought to be in jeopardy after an infection set in requiring another surgical procedure.
DAILY FACEOFF: Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito said he’s spoken with Spencer Knight and expects the promising 22-year-old goaltender to be back with the club next season. Knight played 21 games this season before entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program in February and remained there for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have hired Phil Housley and Dan Muse to their coaching staff. A Hall-of-Fame defenseman Housley is the former head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.
DAILY FACEOFF: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tannebaum is set to sell 25 percent of his stake in the company to OMERS, a pension plan for Ontario municipal employees.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed forward Mathieu Olivier to a two-year, $2.2 million contract extension.
NHL.COM: The Hershey Bears are the 2023 AHL champions following a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Coachella Valley Firebirds in Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final.
Mike Vecchione tallied the winner for the Bears, who are the affiliate of the Washington Capitals. Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre also scored for the Bears.
Bears goaltender Hunter Shepard was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Bears on winning their 12th Calder Cup in franchise history. The Firebirds deserve a round of applause for reaching the Final in just their first season of operation. They’re the affiliate of the Seattle Kraken.
The three stars from the final week of the regular season are announced, notable news from locker clean-out day for eliminated clubs, and notable updates involving several playoff teams in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THREE STARS OF THE FINAL WEEK OF THE REGULAR SEASON
NHL.COM: Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns and Vegas Golden Knight goaltender Laurent Brossoit are the three stars for the week ending April 14
NOTABLE NEWS FROM LOCKER CLEAN-OUT DAY FOR ELIMINATED TEAMS
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson once again emphasized that he still likes playing for the Sharks but winning remains his priority. He once again shrugged off the trade rumors dogging him throughout this season, adding that he’s focusing on the present. Karlsson intends to take some time to enjoy himself and resume training for next season.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson is handling this diplomatically as he has all season but that won’t make the trade speculation disappear. There were teams interested in him but his hefty contract proved difficult to move during the season. It’s expected trade chatter involving Karlsson will pick up in June when teams have more cap space to work with for next season.
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau vowed to bounce back next season from his lackluster performance in 2022-23. Following a career-best 115-point performance last season with the Florida Panthers, he managed just 55 points this season with the Flames.
“I didn’t lose my talent in five months. I’m not a different player from what I was last season,” said Huberdeau. He acknowledged that he found it challenging playing under head coach Darryl Sutter’s system and struggled to adjust to playing right wing after spending his career on the left side.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving to Calgary after 10 seasons with the Panthers likely required some adjustment for Huberdeau. Struggling to play up to expectations after signing an eight-year contract extension worth $10.5 million annually was probably another factor that affected his play.
THE PROVINCE: Six months after injuring his left hand and several surgeries later, Vancouver Canucks winger Tanner Pearson is trying to get his career and life back on track. He didn’t comment about the quality of care he received from the Canucks but it’s expected he’ll file a grievance against the club with the help of the NHL Players’ Association. “I’m just trying to get my hand back,” he said.
Canucks winger Brock Boeser made it clear that he wants to continue his career in Vancouver. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t want to be traded,” he said. The 26-year-old winger struggled through a difficult first half following the death of his father last year, sparking speculation that he would be traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rumors seemed to suggest that the Canucks were listening to offers for Boeser but they weren’t actively shopping him. They could move him for the right price as they’re reportedly looking to garner salary-cap flexibility for next season but they could consider other options before going that route.
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Flyers winger Cam Atkinson is looking forward to 2023-24 after missing all of this season with a herniated disc in his neck that required surgery after a few misdiagnoses and conflicting information from doctors. Despite the confusion at the start of his recovery, Atkinson said he has full confidence in the Flyers’ medical staff and is feeling better now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report noted that head coach John Tortorella said earlier in the season that the club was focused on increasing trust between the players and the medical staff after a new head trainer was brought in.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie revealed he underwent a minor procedure to address lingering back issues. He’s looking forward to a full summer of training, claiming he’s feeling good and is optimistic moving forward.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins forward Jeff Carter said he and his family love living in Pittsburgh and he intends to finish the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bang goes the fantasy of those Penguins fans hoping the club’s new management would convince the 38-year-old Carter to waive his no-movement clause. They could buy him out but because it’s a 35-plus contract they won’t get any cap relief from doing so.
THE ATHLETIC’s Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins won’t be playing for Latvia in next month’s IIHF World Championships. He’s at a career crossroads after struggling this season and is putting his offseason focus on preparing for 2023-24.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators center Josh Norris will be spending the summer preparing for next season after undergoing shoulder surgery in January…Defenseman Thomas Chabot revealed he fractured a bone and tore ligaments in his wrist…Blueliner Travis Hamonic injured the meniscus and medial collateral ligament in his right knee late in the season…Rearguard Jakob Chychrun was sidelined by a hamstring injury.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins center David Krejci returned to practice on Saturday after missing the last six games of the regular season. However, captain Patrice Bergeron skipped practice for precautionary reasons as he’s still feeling the effects of an upper-body injury suffered on Thursday.
Winger Brad Marchand left practice for precautionary reasons after experiencing some soreness. Meanwhile, Nick Foligno and Derek Forbort resumed scrimmaging with their teammates.
TSN: New Jersey Devils winger Timo Meier missed practice on Saturday due to food poisoning.
Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett missed the final 12 games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury but could return at some point in his club’s first-round series with the Bruins.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers said he was merely winded from a heavy hit by Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman, did not suffer a head injury, and is ready to play in Game 1 of his club’s first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.
TWINCITIES.COM: Speaking of the Wild, sidelined center Joel Eriksson Ek is progressing faster than expected after being listed as week-to-week following a lower-body injury suffered on April 6. He’s resumed skating, prompting speculation he might at least travel with the team as they start their first-round series this week against the Dallas Stars.
The Maple Leafs acquire Ryan O’Reilly in a three-team trade, Connor McDavid reaches the 100-point plateau again, Patrick Kane reaches a scoring milestone, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
MAPLE LEAFS ACQUIRE RYAN O’REILLY
NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in a three-team trade involving the Minnesota Wild.
“The Blues received the rights to forward prospectJosh Pillar from the Wild for O’Reilly, then traded him and Acciari to the Maple Leafs for Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators’ third-round pick this year, Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, and forwards Mikhail Abramov and Adam Gaudette.
Minnesota received Toronto’s fourth-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.”
CAP FRIENDLY: The Blues retained 50 percent of O’Reilly’s $7.5 million cap hit with the Wild and Leafs each taking on 25 percent.
The St. Louis Blues ship Ryan O’Reilly to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the previous moves made by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas leading up to the annual trade deadline, this one is the biggest. O’Reilly was among this season’s top trade candidates. The 32-year-old center is a former winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy the Selke Trophy and the Lady Byng Trophy. He is considered among the league’s elite two-way forwards despite the decline in his production this season and a broken foot that sidelined him for nearly six weeks.
I admire the creativity of Dubas and his capologist in finding a way to land a notable player despite carrying limited cap space. It’s the second time he’s gone the three-team trade route, with his previous effort being the 2021 acquisition of Nick Foligno.
Leafs fans will be hoping that the O’Reilly deal has better results than the Foligno trade. So will Dubas, whose future as Leafs GM could be determined by his club’s performance over the remainder of this season and in the playoffs.
O’Reilly should help the Leafs at both ends of the rink. Acciari, meanwhile, is a good bottom-six winger who should help their penalty kill. However, I remain concerned about their blueline and goaltending depth in their quest to get over the postseason hump.
The Blues roster rebuild (retool?) continues just over a week after they shipped Vladimir Taransenko to the New York Rangers. They now have three first-round picks and two third-rounders in this year’s draft as well as two second-round selections and two fourth-rounders in the 2024 draft. The Blues also receive a veteran depth forward in Gaudette for the rest of this season plus a young center in Abramov who might have a future in St. Louis.
Wild GM Bill Guerin used his cap space to buy himself a fourth-round pick. He still has over $12.8 million in projected trade deadline cap room to make other deals before the March 3 deadline.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected two assists to become the first player this season to reach 100 points in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. Alexis Lafreniere tallied the game-winner and Chris Kreider scored twice in regulation as the Rangers overcame a 4-1 deficit. Winners of seven straight, the Rangers (33-14-8) sit one point behind the second-place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has now reached the 100-point mark six times in eight years. It’s also the fifth time he’s been the first player in a season to reach that plateau, sitting behind Mario Lemieux and Phil Esposito (six teams each) and Wayne Gretzky (nine times).
The Oilers activated winger Kailer Yamamoto off injured reserve. Rather than trade or waive Jesse Puljujarvi as many observers anticipated to make room for Yamamoto, they instead loaned Dylan Holloway and Vincent Desharnais to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored two goals as his club rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on an overtime goal by Andreas Athanasiou. Max Domi and Jake McCabe each had two assists for the 17-32-5 Blackhawks. Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroux scored for the Senators (26-24-4) as they sit seven points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 56 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane moved into third place among American-born NHL players with 1,217 points. He’s now 15 points behind Phil Housley for second overall but he has a long way to go yet to catch Mike Modano, who is 157 points ahead with 1,374.
Before the game, former Senator Chris Neil was honored by having his number 25 raised to the rafters in the Canadian Tire Centre. Neil is the third player in modern Senators history to have his number retired, joining Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips.
Speaking of the Islanders, they overcame a 4-3 deficit on third-period goals by Brock Nelson and Zach Parise to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Ilya Sorokin kicked out 40 shots while Nelson and Anders Lee each scored two goals as the Islanders (28-23-7) vaulted over the Washington Capitals into the final Eastern wild-card spot with 63 points. Rickard Rakell tallied twice for the Penguins (27-18-9), who also have 63 points but sit in the first wild-card berth with four games in hand over the Isles.
The Minnesota Wild dimmed the Dallas Stars 2-1 on shootout goals by Frederick Gaudreau and Matt Boldy. Filip Gustavsson stopped 29 shots while Mats Zuccarello scored in regulation for the 29-21-5 Wild as they hold a two-point lead over the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth with 63 points. Jamie Benn scored in regulation for the Stars (30-14-12) as they remain on top of the Western Conference with 72 points.
IN OTHER NEWS…
CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau said critical comments made on Twitter by his agent aimed at the club’s recent struggles didn’t represent his opinion about the club or head coach Darryl Sutter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Huberdeau’s agent is Allan Walsh, who created a stir during the 2020 playoffs with a tweet insinuating that client Marc-Andre Fleury was being stabbed in the back by head coach Peter DeBoer. Fleury was the starting goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights while DeBoer was their head coach.
SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs moved goaltender Matt Murray to long-term injury reserve following the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari. Once third-string goaltender Joseph Woll is ready to return to the AHL, the Leafs will have enough room to activate Murray and his $4.6 million salary when he’s healthy again.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed winger Tanner Pearson on LTIR with a season-ending hand injury suffered on Nov. 9.
GOPHNX.COM’s Craig Morgan tweeted that Arizona Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere could return to the lineup on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gostisbehere’s been sidelined since Jan. 24 with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gostisbehere’s return will be watched closely by playoff contenders seeking an experienced puck-moving defenseman.
NJ.COM’s Ryan Novozinsky tweeted that the Devils sending Alexander Holtz to their AHL affiliate to the minors isn’t in anticipation of a trade but to give the young forward some game play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtz has only appeared in 19 games this season and doesn’t see much ice time when he does play. I’ve mentioned him as a possible trade chip if they intend to pursue a notable winger such as San Jose’s Timo Meier at the trade deadline.
THE ATHLETIC: Nashville Predators 2021 first-round pick Zachary L’Heureux received a 10-game suspension by the QMJHL for poking at a fan with a stick following a Feb. 8 game.