NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 27, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 27, 2022

Auston Matthews tallies his 60th goal of the season, Steven Stamkos reached 100 points, the Hurricanes clinch the Metropolitan Division, the Predators and Kings secure playoff berths, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice to reach the 60-goal plateau as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Detroit Red Wings 3-0. Matthews is the first player to score 60 goals in a season since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. He’s also the first American-born player to reach that mark. John Tavares also scored and Jack Campbell made 20 saves for the shutout. Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin returned to the lineup after missing six games with an undisclosed injury. With the win, the Leafs (113 points) secure second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage for the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Speaking of Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain reached the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career in a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Stamkos scored twice and collected two assists while Nikita Kucherov also had a four-point performance. The Lightning have won four straight games and sit in third place in the Atlantic with 108 points. Before the game, the Blue Jackets confirmed Boone Jenner and Sean Kuraly will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the season ended today, the Leafs and Lightning would face each other in the first round. We’ll find out for sure by week’s end.

The Carolina Hurricanes (114 points) clinched first place in the Metropolitan Division by holding off the New York Rangers 4-3. Sebastian Aho scored to reach his 400th career point, Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei each collected two points and rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov got the win with a 31-save performance. Rangers winger Chris Kreider tallied his 52nd goal of the season. His teammate, Andrew Copp, returned to action from a lower-body injury but left the game in the second period. So did winger Artemi Panarin but it appears both were held out of this contest for precautionary reasons. The Rangers sit second in the Metro with 108 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes were hopeful that sidelined starting goalie Frederik Andersen would be ready to return to action for the opening game of the playoffs next week. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports the current expectation is he’ll miss the Hurricanes’ first few games of the first round.

An overtime goal by Elias Lindholm gave the Calgary Flames a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators, but the latter still secured a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 95 points. Matthew Tkachuk scored in the final second of regulation to tie the game and set the stage for Lindholm’s winner. Both players have 41 goals on the season. Filip Forsberg scored twice for the Predators to reach 42 goals while teammates Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund each had three points. The Flames (110 points) recently clinched first place in the Pacific Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators goaltender Juuse Saros left the game in the third period with what appeared to be an injured left leg. An update on his condition could come on Wednesday.

The Dallas Stars moved closer to clinching the final playoff berth in the Western Conference after downing the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on a shootout goal by Miro Heiskanen. Jason Robertson scored twice to reach 40 goals on the season while Jake Oettinger kicked out 33 shots. The Stars hold the final wild-card spot with 95 points. With 91 points, the Golden Knights’ playoff hopes now hang by a thread while the Stars’ victory means the idle Los Angeles Kings have clinched a postseason berth with 96 points. They will face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights still have a slim chance if they win their final two games and the Stars lose their last two in regulation, thus ensuring they’d take the wild-card berth on the basis of regulation wins. The Stars, however, need just one to qualify for the postseason.

Speaking of the Oilers, they secured second place in the Pacific Division with 100 points by dropping the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a goal and three assists to reach a career-high 122, widening his lead in the scoring race by seven points over the Florida Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau. Mike Smith kicked out 33 shots for his 10th straight win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins winger Jason Zucker left the game in the first period with an undisclosed ailment. The Penguins (101 points) have already secured a playoff berth but hold a one-point lead over the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

As for the Capitals, they failed to overtake the Penguins after falling 4-1 to the New York Islanders. Ilya Sorokin made 32 stops for the Islanders. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

The Colorado Avalanche gained ground on the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings with a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues, snapping the latter’s 16-game points streak. Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves for the win while Valeri Nichushkin had a goal and an assist as the Avalanche (118 points) moved within two points of the Panthers. Blues center Ryan O’Reilly scored twice and collected an assist. The Blues remain in third place in the Central Division with 109 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews returned to the lineup after sitting out the last four games dealing with undisclosed minor injuries. Sidelined teammates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are both expected to return in time for the playoffs next week.

Meanwhile, the Panthers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins. Brad Marchand, Tayler Hall and David Pastrnak each collected two points as the Bruins (105 points) sit three points behind the Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers sit first overall with 120 points.

The Minnesota Wild remains tied with the Blues with 109 points following a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Karel Vejmelka got the win with a 35-save performance while Shayne Gostisbehere collected three assists. Kirill Kaprizov had two assists for Minnesota, who holds second place in the Central over the Blues with a game in hand. Wild forward Marcus Foligno returned to the lineup after missing the past four games due to a bout of COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild and Blues will face each other in the opening round of the playoffs. The outcome of their final games will decide which one gets home-ice advantage in their upcoming series.

Quinn Hughes set a single-season record for Vancouver Canucks defensemen by reaching 66 with a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. The Canucks were officially eliminated from playoff contention by the Stars’ win over the Golden Knights. Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko missed this game as he’s listed as day-to-day with an unspecified injury.

Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to down the New Jersey Devils 5-4. Tim Stutzle had two goals and two assists and Brady Tkachuk picked up three helpers for the Senators. Nolan Foote tallied twice for the Devils.

The Anaheim Ducks beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Max Comtois and Sonny Milano each had a goal and an assist for the Ducks.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is traveling with his teammates to New York, where he has a medical appointment concerning his surgically repaired knee. He’s listed as day-to-day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s sparked speculation in Montreal over whether Price will play in the Canadiens’ final game of the season on Friday against the Panthers as well as concerns about whether he can continue his playing career. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Price still plans on being in net for Friday’s game and he wants to play next season. Nevertheless, we can expect questions about Price’s future to carry over into the offseason.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 4, 2021

Canada’s 2022 Olympic men’s hockey team names its first three players, the league reaches out to Robin Lehner over his social media accusations, Jake Guentzel tests positive for COVID-19, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong has notified Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Alex Pietrangelo they will be part of the 2022 Olympic team. The move was made at the request of the International Ice Hockey Federation, the NHL, and the NHL Players Association.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (NHL Images).

This will be Crosby’s third Olympics, the second for Pietrangelo and the first for McDavid.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s no surprise seeing Crosby, McDavid and Pietrangelo being named to Canada’s squad. I daresay Crosby will be named team captain as he was in 2014. It remains to be seen when the rest of the roster will be named.

No word on which three players will be named to the other men’s Olympic ice hockey clubs. Perhaps those will be revealed in the coming days.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The NHL has reached out to Robin Lehner to set up an interview after the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender took to social media accusing several teams of giving players drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

Lehner claimed he knew several teams that gave players sedatives and anxiety pills with a doctor’s consent, singling out the Philadelphia Flyers and head coach Alain Vigneault. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher issued a statement yesterday denying the allegation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehner claimed he had proof to back up his allegation against the Flyers though he never played for the club or Vigneault. As I said yesterday, he could end up in hot water if he cannot substantiate his claims. If he can, however, it could force the league to launch an investigation.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed in the NHL’s protocol for the coronavirus. He’s the second Penguin to test positive, joining forward Zach Aston-Reese.

Guentzel must remain in isolation for 10 days following his positive test. If he’s asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, he can be released from isolation if he receives two negative tests during that period.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Josh Archibald has been diagnosed with COVID-related myocarditis. It’s the same heart ailment that sidelined Oilers goalie Alex Stalock.

Archibald had contracted COVID during the summer. The unvaccinated forward was in the midst of his 14-day quarantine after traveling to Edmonton from the United States for training camp when he began to not feel well.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Stalock, Archibald’s career is now in jeopardy. Myocarditis causes inflammation of the heart muscle which can prove fatal under physical exertion. Stalock is out for the upcoming season and Archibald could suffer the same fate.

TSN: The Vancouver Canucks officially signed Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to their new contracts yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly has the full details. It’s going to be expensive for the Canucks to re-sign Pettersson at the end of his three-year contract. He’ll earn $10.25 million in actual salary in the final season (2023-24) of that deal, meaning it’ll cost them that much to qualify his rights. Hughes, on the other hand, can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of his new six-year contract.

**UPDATE**: I’ve been reminded that rule for contracts signed after July 10, 2020, is now 120 percent of the contract’s annual average value. That means it’ll cost the Canucks $8.82 million to qualify Pettersson’s rights. Still expensive but not as much as $10.25 million. 

THE SCORE: The Tampa Bay Lightning have reportedly opened contract extension talks with head coach Jon Cooper. The club recently re-signed general manager Julien BriseBois.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cooper could become the NHL’s highest-paid coach after guiding the Lightning to consecutive Stanley Cup titles.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov missed yesterday’s practice with a lower-body injury. He’ll be re-evaluated today.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed checking-line forward Jake Evans to a three-year, $5.1 million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.7 million.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sharks goalie Adin Hill left practice yesterday favoring his left wrist. His participation in today’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks is in doubt.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2021

Update on new contracts for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, no players opt-out of the coming season, Robin Lehner speaks out about Jack Eichel’s standoff with the Sabres, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE PROVINCE: New contracts for Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson and defenseman Quinn Hughes are expected to be formally announced over the weekend. Pettersson, 22, has reportedly agreed to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $7.35 million while the 21-year-old Hughes’ new deal is for six years with an AAV of $7.85 million.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: General manager Jim Benning is garnering praise from the media for getting both players signed for less than they were seeking. Still, Pettersson and Hughes are being well-compensated as the Canucks’ two best players. They will be in a better position to garner bigger raises on their next contracts.

Speaking of the Canucks, defenseman Travis Hamonic has decided not to opt out of participating in the upcoming season by Friday’s deadline. He remains at home in Manitoba dealing with a personal matter. Benning released a statement indicating the club supports him but didn’t indicate when the 31-year-old blueliner will return to the lineup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No NHL player took the opt-out option by yesterday’s deadline.

Meanwhile, Canucks winger Brock Boeser is out for at least a week with an undisclosed injury.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner called out the NHL Players Association on Twitter regarding the standoff between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel. The two sides are locked in a disagreement over medical treatment for a herniated disc in his neck.

A former Sabre and teammate of Eichel, Lehner criticized what he believes to be the PA’s lack of support for Eichel over what the goalie considers an attack on the players’ freedom of choice regarding their health. He also expressed disappointment for what he perceived as his fellow players’ unwillingness to stick up for each other.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The problem is the collective bargaining agreement gives the teams the final say over what treatment players receive for hockey-related injuries. The PA has been involved with the league in trying to find a solution to this standoff. Whether they’ll be part of any further action on Eichel’s part to address this situation remains to be seen.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The prospect of facing 14-day quarantines following every American road trip convinced Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith to get the COVID-19 vaccination. While not an anti-vaxxer, Keith believed his conditioning as an elite athlete and the steps he’s taken to strengthen his immune system would leave him facing little risk of contracting the coronavirus.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This list of unvaccinated players who missed games last season for COVID-related reasons says otherwise. Not every player on that list contracted COVID-19 but a significant number of them did, missing several games or even undergoing a pause in their schedules as a result. 

WPLG MIAMI: Contract talks between the Florida Panthers and captain Aleksander Barkov are progressing slowly. The 26-year-old center is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Barkov remains confident a deal will get done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers better be prepared to pay big bucks to keep their best player in the fold. Barkov’s camp could seek $10 million annually on an eight-year deal but Panthers management could try to sell him on Florida’s lack of a state tax as justification to accept a little less than that.

Whatever Barkov gets could leave the Panthers with a cap crunch for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them carrying a projected $66.9 million invested in 14 players.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan revealed he played through the second half of last season with a fractured left tibia. “I tried my best to stay in the lineup and stay healthy,” said de Haan. “It didn’t feel good”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As someone who also suffered a fractured left tibia, I agree with de Haan that it doesn’t feel good. However, I didn’t try to play hockey on it, or anything else for that matter until it fully healed.

ECHL.COM: The Allen Americans have entered into an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 1, 2021

Canucks closing in on new contracts for Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, the Leafs sign Sheldon Keefe to a contract extension, plus the latest on Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Vrana, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reported yesterday evening the Vancouver Canucks appear to be closing in on new contracts for restricted free agents Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. It’s believed Hughes could receive a six-year contract while Pettersson would get a three-year deal.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Satiar Shah reports Hughes’ could earn an annual average value of $7.75 million. The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal hears Pettersson could get a $7.7 million AAV. That would be a combined $15.45 million annually against the Canucks cap.

Cap Friendly indicates the Canuck have $13.7 million in projected cap space but they would be allowed to exceed the $81.5 million cap by $3.5 million by placing sidelined winger Micheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve. They could also get $3 million in cap relief if defenseman Travis Hamonic opts out of playing this season by today’s deadline.

No surprise if Hughes and Pettersson get those annual average values on their new contracts. Hughes is their top defenseman while Pettersson is their first-line center. They’re going to be paid as such. They’re also young players who’ve yet to reach their full potential. If you think their new contracts are expensive, wait until you see how much they get once those contracts expire.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs yesterday confirmed they’ve signed head coach Sheldon Keefe to a two-year contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs management still has confidence in Keefe to guide this club to a Stanley Cup despite not having won a playoff round during his short tenure behind their bench. This extension should quell speculation that Keefe could lose his job if the Leafs fall short again. Of course, that could depend on whether there’s a front-office purge next spring if this club makes another early postseason exit.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Leafs, winger Wayne Simmonds spoke out yesterday against racism in the game after HK Kremenchuk’s Andrei Deniskin received a mild suspension by the Ukrainian Hockey League for the racial taunting of HC Donbass defenseman Jalen Smereck during a recent UHL game. Smereck, an African-American, has taken leave from Donbass, which has called for stiffer punishment for Deniskin.

Simmonds has also encountered racial taunts throughout his playing career. “I’ve faced a lot of these things myself, and I don’t even know if I’d want my kids playing hockey to be quite honest.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hockey, at every level, is supposed to be for everyone. There should be no place for racism in the sport regardless of where it’s played.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Jakub Vrana is expected to miss the next four months following shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a blow to the Wings’ offense. Acquired at last season’s trade deadline, Vrana had an immediate positive effect. He was expected to play a major role for the rebuilding Wings this season as they attempt to take the next step toward playoff contention.

THE ATHLETIC: Zac Rinaldo’s anti-vaccination stance likely means his tenure with the Columbus Blue Jackets is over before it began. Sources say he will not play a game for the Jackets or their AHL affiliate this season. The club placed him on waivers yesterday.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Bell Centre in Montreal is expected to return to full capacity when the 2021-22 season opens next month as the Quebec government lifts some of its COVID-19 restrictions.

ESPN.COM: The Arizona Coyotes are the only NHL club to relax its game-day dress code for players this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators have plans to allow their players to wear team-issued tracksuits to games this season.

Several clubs have done away with the tie requirement though suits must still be worn. The Seattle Kraken has adopted a business casual policy.

The NHLPA has been pushing behind the scenes for a league-wide change. The PA believes it will help players build their individual brands and grow the game.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 28, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 28, 2021

An update on the Senators’ contract talks with Brady Tkachuk plus the latest on the Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators remain in contract talks with Brady Tkachuk’s representatives as training camp continues without the 22-year-old restricted free agent winger.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

General manager Pierre Dorion has been in daily contact with Tkachuk’s agents Craig Oster and Don Meehan. It’s believed the Senators tabled an eight-year, $64 million contract. While the two sides aren’t far apart regarding the dollars, the structure of the deal remains a sticking point.

The issue is Tkachuk’s agents seek bonus money for their client and the Senators don’t want to go that route. TSN’s Darren Dreger wonders if a short-term deal could be the middle ground. While the Senators have plenty of salary-cap space, Garrioch believes they don’t want to sink 60 percent of their cap payroll into four or five players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Missing training camp will affect Tkachuk’s performance when he finally returns to the lineup. That could become a potential setback for the Senators’ hopes of playoff contention this season. There’s no indication how much longer this impasse could drag on though one phone call from either camp could quickly bring this to a resolution.

I’ve seen some fans musing over the internet over whether the Senators could trade Tkachuk if this standoff carries over into the regular season. I doubt they’ll go to that extreme. He remains a valuable member of their core. Garrioch also noted the deadline for clubs to get their RFAs under contract is Dec. 1. I’ll be surprised they reach that point without a resolution.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning addressed the ongoing absence of defenseman Travis Hamonic from training camp. He expressed confidence last week that the 31-year-old would report after missing medicals and the start of training camp.

It’s believed Hamonic’s absence is related to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated players for the upcoming season. The deadline to opt-out of this season is Oct. 1. Hamonic took that option in the 2020 playoff after his infant daughter was hospitalized with a serious respiratory infection.

Benning said Hamonic is dealing with a personal issue and wants everyone to give the blueliner the space he needs to deal with it. He added he’s in constant contact with Hamonic’s agent. Kuzma said the Canucks GM didn’t want to dwell on the cause of the blueliner’s absence, the opt-out deadline, or what maneuvering he might have to do to reallocate Hamonic’s $3 million salary this season to add a defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are also dealing with the ongoing absences of restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. If Hamonic opts out of this season, perhaps some of that $3 million he was supposed to earn will go toward new contracts for Pettersson and Hughes.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 23, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Morgan Rielly, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Eric Staal in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports it’s difficult to pinpoint a timeline when the Buffalo Sabres could trade Jack Eichel. His new agent, Pat Brisson is on good terms with Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and there are ongoing discussions between the two.

Eichel and the Sabres remain at an impasse over which medical procedure he’ll undergo to repair the herniated disc in his neck. It’s possible Eichel gets traded to a club willing to allow him to undergo the disc replacement surgery he favors but there’s no guarantee and no sign a trade is close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As they say in the Army: “SITREP: no change.” This will probably drag on for months and perhaps cost Eichel the entire season until a suitable trade partner is found. Even then, his $10 million annual cap hit over the next five seasons plus the Sabres’ expensive asking price could make any interested club leery of taking that gamble.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (NHL Images)

Pierre LeBrun reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Morgan Rielly’s camp quietly engaged in preliminary contract discussions over the summer. LeBrun doubts anything will be settled quickly. A lot of it has to do with what next summer’s market will be for unrestricted free-agent defensemen after Dougie Hamilton, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Darnell Nurse all got deals this summer worth $9 million-plus per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun speculates Rielly negotiations could drag on into next June. They could eventually reach a point where they decide to shelf those talks until the offseason. I think Rielly and his representatives saw those hefty offseason signings and believe they can get the same.

Some Leafs fans are still calling for Rielly to get traded if he doesn’t re-sign this season. I don’t see that happening unless the Leafs are out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline.

Dreger believes it’s all about the term and less about money in the Vancouver Canucks’ negotiations with restricted free agent defenseman Quinn Hughes. With training camp underway and Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov under contract, Hughes and teammate Elias Pettersson are hoping to find common ground soon with Canucks management.

Negotiations are also ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk. Dreger feels the main hurdles here are structure and protection. He wonders if a shorter-term deal might become an option if talks drag closer to the start of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No real change here from reports earlier in the week. Nevertheless, they could be signed at any time. We began this week with six notable RFAs and are now down to those three.

LeBrun reports unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal is committed to playing another NHL season but has yet to find a new club. His preference is to find a good fit with an American club.