NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 10, 2021

David Backes to retire with the Blues, the Blackhawks to honor Patrick Kane and three others later this season, the Rangers intend to name a captain this season, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

STLTODAY.COM: David Backes yesterday signed a one-day contract with the St. Louis Blues to officially retire as a member of the team. The 37-year-old forward spent the first 10 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Blues (2006-07 to 2015-16), five of those as team captain. He spent his final five seasons with the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks, playing his final NHL game on May 5.

David Backes during his tenure as St. Louis Blues captain (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Backes and his family in his future endeavors.

Backes’ best seasons were with the Blues, exceeding 50 points five times. He was a key player in the club’s emergence from several seasons of rebuilding into a perennial playoff contender.

In his prime, Backes garnered a well-earned reputation as a versatile, physical two-way forward. Age and injuries hampered his performance during his final seasons. He finishes with 248 goals and 561 points in 965 career NHL regular-season games, as well as 39 points in 82 career playoff contests. 

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks announced they’ll honor Patrick Kane’s 1,000th career NHL game during a pregame ceremony on Oct. 21. Kane achieved that milestone last season without fans in the building. The club also intends to honored retired Blackhawks Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers general manager Chris Drury indicated his preference to name a team captain for the upcoming season. That role has been vacant since former captain Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Larry Brooks listed veteran defenseman Jacob Trouba and 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox as potential candidates.

TSN: Historian and journalist Stan Fischler, former Philadelphia Flyers player, coach and executive Paul Holmgren, and former NHL player turned color commentator Peter McNab are this year’s inductees into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. They’ll join the class of 2020 in an induction ceremony in December.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Fischler, Holmgren and McNab for this well-deserved honor for their contributions to hockey in the United States.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos bought a new home on Davis Island for $8.35 million. He sold his previous home in that area for $16 million.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said his club’s players and staff will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to start this season.

OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Leafs, they and the Ottawa Senators continue to await word from the province of Ontario regarding a possible easing of restrictions on the number of fans allowed into their respective arenas to start this season.

NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars named former NHL goaltender Al Montoya as their new director of community outreach.

HITMENHOCKEY.COM: The Calgary Hitmen named former Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan as an assistant coach.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 5, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 5, 2021

Could the Rangers pursue Jack Eichel? What roster needs do the Golden Knights and Jets still have to address? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Rick Carpiniello was asked several questions by his readers about the possibility of the New York Rangers acquiring Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

If the Rangers intend to acquire Eichel, Carpiniello believes they’ll have to trade center Mika Zibanejad now or at the March trade deadline. Zibanejad is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and will be ready to cash in on a big payday. Asked if the Rangers could re-sign Zibanejad for $8 million annually, Carpiniello felt that would be a great discount considering what comparable players are earning.

Carpiniello doesn’t believe the Rangers should include promising winger Kaapo Kakko in any deal for Eichel. One of their young defensemen and perhaps center Filip Chytil would have to be part of the return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carpiniello doesn’t seem to hold much hope for the Rangers landing Eichel, calling it a “fantasy” at one point.

Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with over $7.9 million in projected cap space for the coming season. They could afford to take on Eichel’s $10 million annual average value if they shipped one or two salaried players to the Sabres as part of the deal. That’s assuming the Sabres would be willing to ship him to a nearby rival. And no, I don’t see them picking up any chunk of his cap hit to help the Blueshirts.

The Rangers have considerable depth in promising prospects and young NHL talent to dangle as trade bait for Eichel. The Sabres will want some decent talent in return, and that could include a couple of players like Kakko, Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller or Vitaly Kravtsov.

Remember, the Sabres’ supposed asking price is said to be four assets comparable to first-round draft picks. That means a first-round pick in 2022, one or two top prospects and one or two promising young NHL players.

As for Zibanejad, they could afford to carry him and Eichel this season. However, it could be a tight squeeze cap-wise depending on which players they send to Buffalo in return or shed in other cost-cutting moves.

It could cost between $9 million and $10 million annually for the Rangers to re-sign Zibanejad. They can’t afford to carry him and Eichel plus the hefty raise Adam Fox will command next summer as a restricted free agent. That won’t leave enough cap room to ice a playoff contender in 2022-23. As Carpiniello suggests, Zibanejad would have to be moved soon after acquiring Eichel or at this season’s trade deadline to avoid losing him for nothing next summer.

NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes the Vegas Golden Knights still need a first-line center. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said they’re happy with their depth at that position after acquiring Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden during the offseason. Promising Peyton Krebs could also crack their lineup this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Patrick and Kreb have promise but they’re not ready to fill that first-line center position. That was a significant weakness for the Golden Knights over the last two seasons and could haunt them in 2021-22. They were linked to Eichel but their limited cap space likely takes them out of the bidding unless the Sabres are willing to absorb a healthy chunk of his annual cap hit.

Tim Campbell believes the Jets still need a veteran backup goaltender for starter Connor Hellebuyck. So far it appears they’ll go with Eric Comrie filling that role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll have to go the trade route to address that issue if it becomes a pressing need during this season. The free-agent market has been picked clean, with aging Devan Dubnyk and Curtis McElhinney still remaining. Tuukka Rask is also unsigned but everyone knows he’ll be returning to the Boston Bruins once he’s fully recovered from hip surgery in January.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2021

The Canadiens don’t match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi and acquire Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

KOTKANIEMI OFFICIALLY WITH THE HURRICANES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Montreal Canadiens announced yesterday they would not match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canadiens received the Hurricanes’ first and third-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft as compensation.

Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first time a player has been successfully signed away from another club via offer sheet since the Edmonton Oilers inked the Anaheim Ducks’ Dustin Penner to a multi-year contract in 2007. While the Hurricanes PR department delighted in taunting the Canadiens on social media, at least there were no threats of a barn fight among general managers.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was pressed for salary cap space, the Hurricanes boxed him in with that offer sheet and he couldn’t justify that investment on a promising but inconsistent young forward. Matching the offer would’ve blown his salary structure apart, leaving the Canadiens with limited cap room for the coming season and create a potential cap headache for next season to qualify Kotkaniemi’s rights.

Cap Friendly shows the Hurricanes above the $81.5 million cap by over $1.5 million but they’re expected to put defenseman Jake Gardiner on long-term injury reserve for the start of the season. Given their depth at center, Kotkaniemi will likely be a winger on their second or third line.

CANADIENS ACQUIRE DVORAK FROM COYOTES

MONTREAL GAZETTE/ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Canadiens wasted little time finding a replacement for Kotkaniemi, acquiring center Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks.

The Coyotes will receive the highest of the Canadiens’ two first-round picks in the 2022 draft plus a 2024 second-rounder. However, if either or both of the Canadiens’ picks are among the top-10, the Coyotes get the lower of the two picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens were linked to the 25-year-old Dvorak throughout last week. He’s a skillful underrated two-way center carrying a $4.45 million annual average value for the next four seasons. Dvorak should prove a worthwhile fit as the Habs second-line center.

Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has been busy this summer rebuilding his club by shipping out veteran assets for draft picks. He now has eight picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft, including three first-rounders. Armstrong could keep those picks but it wouldn’t surprise me if he uses some of them as trade bait to acquire promising young NHL talent.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars head coach Rick Bowness said Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz and Joel Hanley have recovered from the injuries that sidelined/hampered them for much of last season. Goaltender Ben Bishop is skating again but the club remains uncertain if he’ll be available for the coming season. He missed all of 2020-21 recovering from knee surgery.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW‘s Adrian Dater tweeted Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz has returned to full health and is anxious to resume his NHL career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lower-body injury sidelined Francouz for the entirety of last season.

TORONTO SUN: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe will be sidelined four-to-six months following hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild unveiled their jerseys for the 2022 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field on New Year’s Day when they face off against the St. Louis Blues.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 3, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 3, 2021

Will Tomas Hertl re-sign with the Sharks? Could the Capitals trade Evgeny Kuznetsov? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Alex Didion cites an interview Tomas Hertl gave to a Czech media outlet in which the 27-year-old forward appears uncertain over his future with the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl (NHL Images).

I wonder if San Jose will want to re-sign me, and if I’ll want to stay there,” Hertl said, indicating he’ll see how things unfold during this season. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently pointed out two variables that could determine whether this season becomes Hertl’s last in San Jose.

Money will be the first as Hertl could seek between $7 million and $8 million annually on his next contract. The Sharks only have $14 million in cap space for 2022-23 with 14 players under contract. The other is whether he wants to stay. A recent report indicated he was believed among the players unhappy with teammate Evander Kane flouting team rules last season.

Gretz also wondered if Hertl will be keen to spend the remainder of his playing prime with a team that is probably years away from becoming a contender again.

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren took note of the recent speculation over Hertl’s future. He believes the Senators could acquire the versatile forward with the right offer, drawing in part upon their well-stocked cupboard of prospects. He also notes Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and Sharks GM Doug Wilson have a trade history, pointing to the 2018 Erik Karlsson trade.

USA TODAY‘S Vincent Z. Mercogliano believes Hertl would be a sensible trade target for the New York Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators and Rangers have sufficient salary-cap space and depth in draft picks and prospects to make competitive bids for Hertl this season. That’s assuming, of course, the Sharks decide to shop him.

That move, however, probably doesn’t occur until later this season, likely near the trade deadline if the Sharks are out of playoff contention by that point. Hertl also has a three-team trade list, significantly narrowing potential destinations. He could agree to broaden that list depending on where Wilson would want to move him.

Hertl’s UFA status is also a point of concern. He’d have to be considered a playoff rental player this season. If the Senators and/or Rangers aren’t in contention it doesn’t make any sense for them to pursue a player who could depart next summer as a free agent.

THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Tarik El-Bashir was asked whether the Washington Capitals will trade Evgeny Kuznetsov. One reader claimed hearing talk of the 28-year-old center becoming a New York Ranger at the start of the season.

El-Bashir believes if Kuznetsov were to be traded it would’ve happened by now. His $7.8 million annual cap hit through 2024-25, 15-team no-trade clause, and the Capitals need to get a suitable replacement in return are key reasons working against it.

He does wonder if a team interested in Jack Eichel could shift their attention to Kuznetsov if and when the Buffalo Sabres captain is traded. Kuznetsov’s attitude and mindset during training camp could also be worth watching.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Too many factors work against a Kuznetsov trade. His off-ice baggage also hurts his trade value. If he returns in the right frame of mind and plays well it will improve his stock but it could also entice the Capitals to retain him.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 30, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 30, 2021

An update on the trade status of Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and the effect of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet on the Canadiens and Hurricanes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford provided an update on the trade status of St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. He believes the Carolina Hurricanes remain interested as they need scoring help, especially on the power play. The New York Rangers could also be among the suitors.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

Asked if the New York Islanders are still in the mix, Rutherford believes they are, though you never know with general manager Lou Lamoriello. Some around the league believe he’s signed a few free agents this summer such as Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri, However, he hasn’t announced those deals so no one knows how much cap space he actually has for the coming season.

The odds are 50-50 that Tarasenko returns with the Blues this season but Rutherford feels he’ll be moved. He believes the relationship between Tarasenko and the club isn’t reparable and feels comfortable guaranteeing the winger will be traded.

Rutherford also didn’t dismiss the possibility of shipping Tarasenko in a package deal to the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel. He believes the Blues expressed interest in the Sabres center but it never became serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford published his mailbag before news broke of the Hurricanes signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet. If the Montreal Canadiens don’t match it, the Canes will be out of the Tarasenko sweepstakes. And no, they won’t flip Kotkaniemi to St. Louis in a package deal for Tarasenko. By signing that offer sheet, Kotkaniemi cannot be traded this season.

The Rangers could acquire Tarasenko as short-term depth until young right wingers Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov are better prepared to become full-time top-six forwards. However, they don’t appear in any hurry to make that move.

Given concerns about the Blues defense corps, they could seek a defenseman as part of the return. Rutherford heard the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield mentioned in recent speculation but that doesn’t mean the Isles will part with him. Lamoriello also has to sign Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin. If he’s already signed UFAs like Parise and Palmieri, he probably won’t have enough room to acquire Tarasenko and have enough for Beauvillier and Sorokin.

Tarasenko to Buffalo for Eichel would be a blockbuster deal but I don’t see it happening. The 29-year-old Tarasenko has just two years left on his contract and would probably hit the open market in 2023. The Sabres will want a return that best fits into their long-term plans.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski suggests the Carolina Hurricanes’ signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi could affect the Jack Eichel trade market. If the Montreal Canadiens don’t match it, they’ll receive the Hurricanes’ first-round pick and their third-round pick in next year’s NHL Draft.

With the Canadiens potentially having two firsts and two third-rounders next year, Kingerski wonders if offering up two firsts and a prospect could land them Eichel. He also took note of Eichel hiring Pat Brisson last week as his new agent, pointing out he and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin are close.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I observed in today’s morning coffee headlines, the Canadiens’ salary-cap constraints means they’ll likely have to part with a salaried player as part of a deal for Eichel even if they placed Shea Weber and Paul Byron on long-term injury reserve this season.

Weber is expected to miss the entire season but Byron is expected to return to the lineup in January. Unless the Sabres retain part of Eichel’s $10 million cap hit (and I doubt they will), I don’t see how the Habs can fit his contract into their payroll without shedding additional salary.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock acknowledged the salary-cap issues facing the Hurricanes if they successfully sign away Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens. He speculates one way to address it is by placing defenseman Jake Gardiner and his $4.050 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve.

However, the Hurricanes would have to be over the cap by $4 million to take full advantage of it. That would require another move or signing, and Gardiner would have to fail his training-camp physical or be willing, essentially, to retire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly provides complete details of how LTIR works and PuckPedia has a shorter version.

Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet pushed the Canes over the $81.5 million cap by $1.523 million. The Hurricanes could attempt to trade Gardiner to shed his full salary if he doesn’t fail his medical, place him on waivers or demote him to clear some cap room. Demotion, however, won’t clear his full cap hit from their books.

How the Hurricanes clear cap space remains hypothetical until the Canadiens reach their decision whether to match the offer within the seven-day window. GM Don Waddell could already have something else up his sleeve to address that issue. Stay tuned.










Is There a “Right Way” To Retire NHL Jersey Numbers?

Is There a “Right Way” To Retire NHL Jersey Numbers?

The New York Rangers’ plan to retire Henrik Lundqvist’s number prompted the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Mark Madden to suggest some teams conduct that practice too frequently.

While taking note of Lundqvist’s 15 seasons with the Rangers, Madden pointed out he never won a Stanley Cup, appeared in just one Cup final and won the Vezina only once. He suggested no one would know who Lundqvist was if he played in Buffalo but he gets his number retired because he played for the big-market Rangers.

Madden also pointed out the Rangers, who’ve won just one championship since 1940, retired eight numbers honoring 10 players but only three won the Stanley Cup. He felt that “when glory isn’t earned, it’s good PR to bestow it.”

That’s a blithe dismissal of Lundqvist’s accomplishments and of his fellow Ranger greats who lack a Stanley Cup on their resumes.

Lundqvist had a career worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame and could become a first-ballot inductee. He was the Rangers’ franchise player throughout most of his NHL career. He’s their all-time leader in games played for goalies (887), save percentage (.918), shutouts (64) and wins (459), ranking sixth all-time in that category among NHL goalies.

Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey number (30) will join those of other Rangers greats (NHL.com).

Rod Gilbert, who recently passed away at age 80, is another Ranger great who never won the Stanley Cup. He was their first player to have his number retired following 18 seasons from 1960-61 to 1977-78. He still holds the franchise record with 406 career goals and 1,021 points and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Jean Ratelle played over 14 seasons with the Rangers, most of those as Gilbert’s linemate. He’s second among their all-time scoring leaders with 336 goals and third with 481 assists and 817 points. He won the Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsey Award) in 1971-72, the Masterton Trophy in 1971 and the first of his four Lady Byng Memorial Trophies as a Ranger. He went into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Harry Howell was a Ranger for 17 of his 21 NHL seasons, holding the club record with 1,160 games. He was the last player to win the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman before the league expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967. Howell was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979.

Madden also took swipes at teams with “legit history” like the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs who “don’t necessarily get it right” when retiring numbers.

The Canadiens have retired 15 numbers honoring 18 players. Madden acknowledged it’s hard to argue against their choices but felt that’s a bad thing and “stupid” because it leaves too many of their current players skating with numbers in the 40s through the 90s, making them look like a roller-hockey team.

So what are the Canadiens supposed to do? Not honor the plethora of great players who played leading roles in their rich history, including their league-leading 24 Stanley Cup titles? It’s also worth noting the Canadiens aren’t the only team with current players sporting high jersey numbers and they certainly don’t look embarrassing doing so. Some even include such Hall-of-Famers as Wayne Gretzky (99), Eric Lindros (88) and Mario Lemieux (66).

Turning to the Leafs, Madden observed five of their 19 players to have their numbers retired (Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark) played during their Cup-less years since 1967.

As with Lundqvist, Gilbert, Ratelle and Howell with the Rangers, Sundin, Sittler, Salming and Gilmour are among the Leafs’ all-time greats and Hall-of-Fame inductees. The lack of a Stanley Cup on their resumes as Leafs (Gilmour won his with the Calgary Flames) shouldn’t be held against them having their jersey numbers retired.

I do agree with Madden over the retirement of Clark’s number despite being one of my favorite Leafs. He was often the only good thing during the dark ages of the Harold Ballard era and a long-time fan favorite. Retirement of his number seemed mostly for sentimental reasons but that’s the Leafs’ prerogative and their fans don’t have an issue with it.

Madden believes the Pittsburgh Penguins “do it right” when retiring numbers. Only Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere received that honor from the Penguins. Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Evgeni Malkin are certain to enjoy the same accolade once their Hall of Fame-worthy playing careers have ended

By the way, Lemieux, Crosby and Jagr all wore numbers in the 40 through 90 range without making their team look like a roller-hockey team.

The argument can be made the Penguins only have a tiny fraction of retired or soon-to-be-retired numbers because they represent two bright periods (1990 to 1997, 2008 to 2016) in the Penguins’ 55-year history. Many of the years leading up to the Lemieux-Jagr era were mostly mediocre. Lemieux’s final seasons were spent with a floundering club on the brink of relocation before a new arena save them during the Crosby-Malkin era.

Using Madden’s logic, we can make the case against the retirement of Briere’s number. That honored was bestowed when the young forward was killed in a car accident in 1970. It was a tragic end to a promising NHL career, but was it really worth retiring his number?

There’s really no “right way” to honor former or fallen players. Those who enjoyed Hall of Fame careers deserve that accolade regardless of whether they won the Stanley Cup. There’s also nothing wrong with retiring the number of a long-time fan favorite or remembering a player full of promise whose career was sadly cut short.

Now, if you want to critique teams that raise banners for meaningless regular-season accomplishments, that’s a bone worth picking.