NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 26, 2021

Tuukka Rask on when he expects to return to action, former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton talks about his firing, the Flyers sign Derick Brassard, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Tuukka Rask said his recovery from offseason hip surgery is going well and he’s hoping to return to action around Christmastime or January.

Tuukka Rask could return to the Boston Bruins by midseason (NHL Images).

Rask also stated he’s only interested in playing for the Bruins. While not engaged in ongoing contract talks with general manager Don Sweeney, the unrestricted free agent goaltender said the two had good discussions and he believes they’re on the same page. He also said money won’t be an issue, saying he’ll be a cheap goaltender for them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins are expected to start the season with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goaltending tandem. If Rask returns by midseason, Swayman can be sent to the minors as Cap Friendly indicates he’s exempt from waivers.

The performance of Ullmark and Swayman could complicate Rask’s potential return if they’re both playing well. Nevertheless, his comments suggest he’s going to be in the club’s plans at some point in the coming season. He’ll have to be an affordable signing as they’ve got $1.089 million in cap space without adding Swayman’s $925K.

NEW YORK POST: Former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said he was surprised that the fallout from the Tom Wilson-Artemi Panarin brawl last season included his dismissal and that of team president John Davidson. “I didn’t know it was going to turn into that, it surprised me that it turned into what it turned into,” he told the “Cam & Stick” podcast.

Gorton also spoke about the statement the team released following that incident condemning the NHL department of player safety for only fining Wilson instead of suspending him. “You might have seen it the first time I did,” he said, adding it was crafted and released by the team’s PR staff. Gorton also said he, Davidson and now-former head coach David Quinn regularly discussed improving the club’s toughness over time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers’ reaction to Wilson’s manhandling of Panarin and the light punishment he received seems to have been driven by team owner James Dolan. He cited the club’s lack of toughness during the official announcement of the firings of Gorton and Davidson in May. It also accounts for shipping Pavel Buchnevich to St. Louis for Sammy Blais and the acquisition, and signing of rugged forward Ryan Reaves.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers signed forward Derick Brassard to a one-year, $825K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Brassard addition leaves the Flyers with just over $381K in cap space for the coming season.

WGR 550: Defenseman Robert Hagg is skating in Buffalo and settling in after being traded to the Sabres last month by the Flyers as part of the Rasmus Ristolainen deal.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Former Jets forward Mason Appleton is very excited about being part of the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural roster. He spent three seasons with the Jets before being selected by the Kraken in last month’s expansion draft.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed forwards Glenn Gawdin and Justin Kirkland to one year, two-way contracts.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021

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

THE SCORE: listed the best available UFAs still available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 12, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 12, 2021

The Jack Adams Award finalists are announced, the 2021 draft order is set through the first 27 picks, plus the latest on Nikita Kucherov, Tuukka Rask and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes, Dean Evason of the Minnesota Wild, and Joel Quenneville of the Florida Panthers are this year’s finalists for the Jack Adams Award.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour and Evason are first-time finalists. It’s the third time for Quenneville, who took home the award with the St. Louis Blues in 1999-2000.

All but the final four spots in the 2021 NHL Draft have been determined. The first 15 positions were determined by the draft lottery on June 2. The 12 teams eliminated from the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs are slotted into positions 16-27.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Buffalo Sabres hold the first-overall pick. Follow the link above for the full list.

THE ATHLETIC: Owen Power, the top prospect in this year’s draft, said he’s leaning toward returning to the University of Michigan next season. “It’s something I’d like to do just trying to get the true experience of playing college hockey,” said Power. “At the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best.”

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Probably a wise decision on Power’s part. Too many young players have hampered their development making the leap into the NHL before they’re ready.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov responded to complaints about his club placing him on long-term injury reserve during the regular season to garner cap relief as he recovered from offseason hip surgery. He said he didn’t make the LTIR rules and spoke about the long recovery process away from the game.

I didn’t do it on purpose, obviously. I had to do the surgery. I had to go through the whole five months of rehabilitation, and when the time came (when) I was ready to play, it was the playoffs.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was interesting to hear Kucherov’s side of the story. He also spoke about the monotony and frustration he experienced going through the rehab process while his teammates were chasing a playoff spot.

TSN: Montreal Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said he wasn’t very confident in Jeff Petry, Jake Evans or Jon Merrill returning to the lineup in time for Game 1 of their semifinal series with the Vegas Golden Knights. All three are sidelined by various injuries. Ducharme didn’t rule out the possibility of them rejoining their teammates later in the series. Game 1 goes Monday night in Las Vegas.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Canadiens, they’ve asked the Quebec government to increase capacity for their home games. They’re currently allowed to have 2,500 fans in attendance.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t say I blame them. The Vegas Golden Knights are now allowed full capacity for their home games. It gives the players a lift hearing more fans cheering them on. Whether the Quebec government agrees to the proposal and how many more fans could be allowed into the Bell Centre remains to be seen.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will undergo hip surgery in the offseason that will sideline him until January or February of 2022. Fourth-line center Curtis Lazar suffered a sprained knee in their series with the New York Islanders Defenseman Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo both suffered concussions.

Jeremy Lauzon underwent surgery on his right hand following an injury in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals and returned wearing a splint. Craig Smith suffered a groin injury during the Islanders series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask’s surgery and lengthy rehab could have an effect on his contract negotiations with the Bruins. He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 28.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2021

A look at what could be ahead for the Avalanche in the offseason, more Bruins speculation and the latest on Jack Eichel in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski observes the Colorado Avalanche face some big free-agent decisions in the offseason. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer, and winger Brandon Saad are among those slated to become unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Cale Makar, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent in line for a significant pay raise coming off his entry-level contract.

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (NHL Images).

The Avs also risk losing a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. Even if sidelined Erik Johnson agrees to waive his no-movement clause, someone like Ryan Graves or Jacob MacDonald could be left exposed if they opt to protect three defensemen.

Head coach Jared Bednar could be under the microscope after failing to get the Avs past the second round. He has a year remaining on his contract and could return to finish that season.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic needs to build a tougher roster and replace Bednar as head coach, citing the latter’s inability to make strategic roster adjustments against the Vegas Golden Knights during their second-round series. “The Avs are pretty, not gritty,” opined Kiszla among his colorful descriptions of their lack of postseason toughness.

Ryan O’Halloran agreed with Kiszla in less hyperbolic terms. He feels the Avs aren’t in the same depths as the early-era Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals. Nevertheless, he believes “they need to get bigger on defense and deeper at center” to beat the Golden Knights next season.

THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh believes the Avalanche must address how long and for much they’re willing to sign Landeskog for. He also thinks paying Makar $10 million annually is worthwhile and considers it too risky to let Grubauer walk via free agency. He also recommends they explore creating cap space through trades and add some low-cost veterans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic did a fine job building the current roster. He must now figure out how to get this team to the next level without the salary-cap flexibility he enjoyed in recent years.

Yes, the Avalanche needs more depth at center and size on defense. Yes, they need to get tougher. However, Sakic and his staff must avoid overreacting as the 2010 version of the Capitals did following their first-round upset by the Montreal Canadiens. Those missteps set the Caps back several seasons before they finally won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Landeskog, 28, will seek a substantial pay raise over his current $5.57 million cap hit. Some might scoff at Makar earning $10 million annually but his rise to Norris Trophy finalist in just three seasons provides his camp with sufficient grounds to seek that much. Sakic could try to go the bridge deal route but that seems unlikely given Makar’s talent. Grubauer’s Vezina nod this season also works in his favor as he pursues a big bump over his $3.33 million AAV.

Sakic has shown in the past a willingness to make bold moves to improve his roster. We should expect he’ll do the same this summer as he attempts to retain his core free agents and address his roster needs.

He could use one of the defensemen he risks losing in the expansion draft as a trade chip. Perhaps he’ll move a skilled blueliner like Samuel Girard for a bigger physical rearguard. Maybe he shops center Nazem Kadri to free up cap space to add a tough, cool-headed two-way replacement.

MORE BRUINS SPECULATION

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Matt Porter wonders where the Bruins go from here after falling short against the New York Islanders in the second round.

His optimistic forecast regarding Tuukka Rask has the goaltender signing a short-term deal between $5 million and $6 million, undergoing whatever offseason surgery he requires and gradually returning to the lineup next season. He also suggests signing Taylor Hall to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually and David Krejci for a year at around $5 million. The latter would give the Bruins time to determine if Jack Studnicka or Charlie Coyle can play at second-line center or if they need to bring in someone for that role.

Porter also speculates Jake DeBrusk could be shopped for a helpful secondary player. The lack of quality left-side defense options via free agency could see them bring back Mike Reilly if another club doesn’t offer to double his $1.5 million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss suggests the Bruins should transition Jeremy Swayman to the starter’s job but bring back Rask on a one-year deal worth between $3 million and $5 million. It’s a sensible suggestion but that depends on whether Rask is prepared to accept the backup/mentor role with the Bruins or look elsewhere for a starter’s job.

Hall was a good fit with the Bruins and he really wants to stay but that depends on how much he wants on his next deal and for how long. I think Krejci’s open to returning for another year or two for a lesser cap hit, perhaps around $5 million.

The Bruins were reportedly reluctant to trade DeBrusk this season over fear he’d regain his scoring touch elsewhere. However, I think they should explore the trade market while he still has some decent trade value. It’ll be interesting to see if Reilly is willing to stick in Boston for perhaps a little less than market value.

LATEST ON JACK EICHEL

WGR550: Franklin Heinzmann cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s recent appearance on “The Instigators” discussing possible trade interest in Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel.

Friedman believes the Sabres want to move on from their captain. He said the teams around the league with interest in Eichel are trying to convince GM Kevyn Adams to move the unhappy center sooner rather than later. Friedman feels Adams should set the marketplace himself rather than be influenced by those clubs.

The Sabres GM could try to play the interested clubs against each other to drive up Eichel’s trade value. Some teams, however, are pointing to the center’s neck injury to suggest Adams isn’t dealing from a position of strength.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman didn’t indicate which teams could be calling the Sabres. I’ve posted up a list of potential teams in my latest column for The Hockey News, including several suggested by Friedman last month.

If the Sabres trade Eichel during the offseason it’ll likely happen just before or during the opening day of this year’s NHL draft on July 23. Adams will use the next several weeks to evaluate the clubs with the most interest while also gauging Eichel’s ongoing treatment.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2021

The Bruins face some free-agent decisions, some recent speculation linking the Flyers to Seth Jones, and the latest on the Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BRUINS?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Boston Bruins must decide on the futures of goaltender Tuukka Rask and center David Krejci. Rask is a polarizing figure among Bruins fans but remains among the NHL’s best goaltenders. It’s unclear what the 34-year-old Rask intends to do but the emergence of Jeremy Swayman makes the club feel better about its’ future plans.

Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Krejci remains a reliable center at age 35 but not at his current $7.25 million cap hit. The chemistry he developed with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith could lead management to try and bring him back at a reduced rate.

Kaplan also believes the Bruins should attempt to re-sign trade-deadline acquisitions Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly. Hall’s been campaigning to remain a Bruins since his arrival in Boston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins could bring back Rask if he’ll accept a short-term deal for perhaps a little less than his current $7 million cap hit. He’ll also have to share more of the goalie duties with Swayman. If not, they’ll go with Swayman and perhaps add an experienced backup as his mentor.

I can see Krejci returning at a reduced rate on a two-year deal, or perhaps a one-year, bonus-laden contract. He doesn’t seem keen to leave the only NHL team he’s played for. The club’s performance this season suggests they could have enough left for another shot at a Cup run next season, depending of course on their offseason moves. Krejci will probably want to be part of that.

The Bruins were pleased with the play of Hall and Reilly. The latter, however, will be easier to re-sign than the former. Kaplan said Hall would prefer long-term stability. If he wants that from the Bruins, he’ll likely have to accept less than market value.

Hall salvaged his reputation with a strong performance in Boston after his disastrous turn earlier this season with the Buffalo Sabres. That will make him an intriguing option for playoff contenders if he heads to free agency this summer.

COULD THE FLYERS LAND SETH JONES?

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall recently cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting the Philadelphia Flyers as a viable trade destination for Seth Jones. The 26-year-old defenseman last month informed the Columbus Blue Jackets of his intention to test next summer’s UFA market.

Appearing last week on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, Friedman said he felt the Flyers could make that trade. He wondered how Jones would feel about that but wouldn’t be shocked if the blueliner ends up in Philadelphia.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Sam Carchidi was asked by a reader if the Flyers could acquire Jones, or Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton, or Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau.

Carchidi believes Gaudreau would help the Flyers’ offensive attack. However, he believes their top priority should be acquiring a right-shot defenseman such as Jones or Hamilton.

While Hamilton would be a perfect fit, Carchidi believes he’ll re-sign with the Hurricanes. Jones would be a great consolation prize, but the Flyers will need assurances he’ll re-sign with them before acquiring him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every team interested in Jones will want to know if he’ll sign a contract extension with them. If he won’t, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher could look elsewhere to address his right-side defense needs.

If Jones is willing to talk contract extension, Fletcher must decide how much he’s willing to spend in return and salary. Others clubs, such as the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, have the cap space and tradeable assets to outbid the Flyers. We also can’t rule out teams like the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars finding a creative way to acquire him.

LATEST ON THE SHARKS

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White suggested five players from teams eliminated from the opening round of the playoffs as target targets for the San Jose Sharks. They are Toronto’s Mitch Marner or William Nylander, Washington’s Lars Eller, Minnesota’s Cam Talbot, and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

White suggested offering up a package including a winger such as Timo Meier ($6 million cap hit) and Kevin Labanc ($4.725 million) for Marner or Nylander. The Capitals’ limited cap space could make them receptive to an offer of draft picks for Eller.

Talbot could be an option if the Wild risk losing him to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft or of giving up assets to the Kraken to retain him. With $11 million in salary-cap space, the Sharks could be positioned to offer Nugent-Hopkins more money on a short-term deal via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson has a well-earned reputation for making bold moves and could do so this summer. I don’t see him prying Marner or Nylander away from the Leafs or winning a bidding war in free agency for Nugent-Hopkins. Pursuing Talbot or Eller are more reasonable options, though we don’t know if either guy will be on Wilson’s radar this summer.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 10, 2021

The Islanders advance to the semifinals, the Norris Trophy finalists are announced, plus the latest on Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders advanced to the semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to end their series in six games. Brock Nelson scored two second-period goals to snap a 1-1 tie while Semyon Varlamov made 23 saves for the win. Brad Marchand tallied both Bruins goals. The Isles face the Tampa Bay Lighting for the second straight year in the third round.

New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were the better team in this series. They took control of this game in the second on those goals by Nelson with Kyle Palmieri making it 4-1 in the final minutes of the frame.

The Bruins were without sidelined defensemen Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. Goaltender Tuukka Rask acknowledged he was hampered by a nagging injury, raising questions over coach Bruce Cassidy’s decision to play him in this crucial game.

Adam Fox of the New York Rangers, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche are this year’s finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy.

TSN: Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele still doesn’t believe he deserved a four-game suspension for charging Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans during their second-round series. “I thought I was going to be tried to be shut down by (Canadiens center) Phillip Danault,” said Scheifele. “Instead it was the Department of Player Safety that shut me down.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Scheifele shut himself down. He let his frustration get the better of him. Rather than accept the Game 1 loss and put the focus on rallying back in Game 2, he made a reckless hit that took himself out of the series. It contributed to the Jets getting swept from the second round by the Canadiens. Scheifele’s suspension is his fault. The sooner he accepts it the better.

Speaking of Evans, he resumed off-ice training yesterday after suffering a concussion from Scheifele’s hit that sidelined him for the rest of the second-round series. There’s no timeline for his return to play but Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said he could return at some point in the semifinals. Defenseman Jeff Petry could also return for the semis after injuring his right hand in Game 3 against the Jets.

SPORTSNET: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers claims he felt 100 percent during the playoffs but revealed he suffered a posterior labrum tear in his shoulder and a first-rib cartilage fracture.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The injuries affected Ehlers’ play as he managed just three points in six games. He enjoyed perhaps the best performance of his career during the regular season, tallying 46 points in 47 games.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin hired Ray Shero as senior advisor. Shero is the former general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks hired former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Shaw as an assistant coach. He’s expected to help the Canucks improve their porous defense.

THE SCORE: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban will serve as an ESPN in-studio NHL analyst for the remainder of the playoffs. The company is also reportedly hiring NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, as well as A.J. Mleczko Griswold and Ryan Callahan. Turner Sports, meanwhile, is bringing about NBC/Sportsnet analyst Anson Carter.