NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 5, 2019

An update on NHL CBA talks, the latest on Connor McDavid, the Kings re-sign Adrian Kempe, the latest PTOs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL Player Association executive director Donald Fehr said the players haven’t decided if they’ll exercise their early opt-out of the collective bargaining agreement by the Sept. 15 deadline. The PA executive board and other players met in Chicago yesterday for an update on current negotiations with the NHL. No decisions were reached regarding the CBA. Talks with the league continue on Friday.

Fehr said discussions remain pleasant and cordial. “It doesn’t mean there haven’t been disagreements and significant disagreements, but it’s so far at least free from rancor,” he said. “That’s a big improvement.” The PA and the league haven’t discussed a possible extension of the Sept. 15 deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fehr’s statement was essentially status quo. He’s not going to tip the PA’s hand while negotiations with the league are ongoing but also won’t say anything that could put those talks in jeopardy.

Escrow payments likely remain among the “significant disagreements” Fehr was alluding to. Indeed, it’s the biggest, perhaps the only, impediment toward a new agreement or an extension of the current one.

As for extending the PA’s opt-out deadline, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that won’t fly with the league as both sides would have to agree. If so, Sept. 15 remains the next significant milestone.

No certainly Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will be ready for the start of the season (Photo via NHL Images).

 THE SCORE: Player agent Jeff Jackson can’t say if client Connor McDavid will be fully recovered from a knee injury by the start of the Edmonton Oilers’ season on Oct. 2. The Oilers captain suffered the injury during the final game of the 2018-19 season. Jackson said McDavid hasn’t had any setbacks and is working toward getting ready for the start of training camp next week.

WINNIPEG SUN:Josh Morrissey confirmed contract-extension talks have begun with the Jets. The defenseman is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer. “I’d love to get something done. I’d love to play here throughout my career,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After the recent departure of Jacob Trouba, Morrissey’s remarks will be music to the ears of Jets fans. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings re-signed center Adrian Kempe to a three-year contract with an annual average value of $2 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise Kempe got a bridge deal. After a promising 37-point rookie campaign in 2017-18, Kempe managed just 28 points last season. Cap Friendly indicates the Kings now have over $74.7 million invested in 23 players for 2019-20.

VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks inked restricted free agent winger Nikolay Goldobin to a one-year, $900K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is probably Goldobin’s last chance to prove himself as a reliable NHL regular with the Canucks. Another inconsistent effort could turn him into a waiver or trade candidate.

TSN: The Calgary Flames signed forwards Devante Smith-Pelly, Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo, and Alexandre Grenier to professional tryout offers. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers have brought back forward Troy Brouwer on a PTO.

STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Winger Drew Stafford will attend Minnesota Wild training camp on a professional tryout offer.

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano and Colorado Avalanche forward A.J. Greer pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to an assault charge stemming from an incident in New York on July 7. Both will be permitted to skip their next court date next month because of their respective travel schedules.

THE SCORE: NBC Sports has removed Pierre McGuire from its No. 1 broadcast team, relegating him to the second game of their doubleheaders. McGuire will be replaced by Brian Boucher.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McGuire has attracted criticism for his coverage in recent years. The Score observed he was “essentially forced to apologize for a series of awkward on-air exchanges with fellow analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield in January.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and former NHLers Tim Thomas and Brian Gionta are among this year’s inductees into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The taciturn Thomas was part of the conference call with reporters following the announcement, marking his first public statement since his retirement in 2014. He alluded to a “state of nervousness” since his retirement, adding he doesn’t like traveling and prefers to keep his personal life to himself.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2019

An update on Patrik Laine plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NO CONTRACT TALK WITH JETS, SAYS LAINE

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Patrik Laine said contract talks with the Winnipeg Jets have been non-existent this summer and he isn’t sure what that means for his future with the club. The 21-year-old left-winger is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

No progress yet in contract talks between the Winnipeg Jets and Patrik Laine (Photo via NHL Images).

Laine said he’s unconcerned about the situation, noting he’ll be playing somewhere this season. “Well, you never know. It’s still business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” Laine said. “But yeah, you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything.” He also said he’s got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck also reported on Laine’s comments. He pointed out the young Finn is among several big-ticket RFAs this summer, including teammate Kyle Connor. Billeck notes the Jets have over $17 million in salary-cap space with 17 players signed for next season. The impasse with Laine and Connor hasn’t helped them bolster their depth.

Billeck feels the Jets must avoid a lengthy standoff like the one the Toronto Maple Leafs had last season with William Nylander. The decline in Laine’s production last season and a lingering back issue could factor into the negotiations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s not the only RFA this summer who’s had little or no contract discussions with their respective teams. A report emerged earlier this week indicating Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic last spoke with Mikko Rantanen’s agent two months ago.

I don’t think a lack of talks between Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Laine camp is anything to be concerned about right now. The time to worry is if there’s no progress as training camp approaches.

For now, fans should avoid reading too much into this. It’s an unusual summer, with several noteworthy young RFA stars still unsigned. It seems like everyone is waiting to see who gets signed first. It’s also mid-August, a time of little significant player movement or signings.

Once the calendar turns to September, I anticipate we’ll see negotiations heat up for Laine, Connor and the other RFAs. And no, I don’t believe this means the Jets could shop Laine. There’s always a possibility he could be traded for the right offer, but I don’t believe any team can come up with one suitable enough to tempt Cheveldayoff.

I expect the Jets will re-sign Laine and Connor. For how much and for how long is anyone’s guess, but they will get signed. And if they need to free up cap space afterward to fill out the remainder of the roster, they could move someone like Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million annual average value) or Mathieu Perreault ($4.125 million).

LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION

TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie recently wondered if Justin Schultz has a future with the Pittsburgh Penguins beyond this season. The 29-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Penguins will face another salary-cap crunch next summer as they’ll also have to re-sign Matt Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, and Jared McCann, among others. If the club struggles this season, Bombulie predicts Schultz could be shopped before the trade deadline.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Wingers Valeri Nichushkin and Drew Stafford top Dan Kingerski’s list of potential professional tryout candidates for the Penguins. Others include defenseman Michael Stone, winger Tobias Rieder, and blueliner Ben Lovejoy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins must shed salary once Marcus Pettersson is re-signed. They probably won’t look at PTO candidates until after that’s sorted.

GM Jim Rutherford could peddle Schultz but I expect he’ll retain the rearguard for one more shot at a Stanley Cup run this season. I concur with Bombulie that he would be a late-season move if the Pens struggle to stay in playoff contention.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019

Updates on Jake Gardiner and Nikita Gusev, plus five players who could need training camp to get new contracts in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

WHY IS GARDINER STILL UNSIGNED?

TSN: Bryan Hayes and Mike Johnson discussed why former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains unsigned. Johnson said he’d heard whispers suggesting Gardiner enjoyed playing for the Leafs so much he’d prefer taking a lesser deal for Toronto. Hayes wondered if he’d accept a one-year deal to bolster his value for next summer’s market.

Speculation abounds over why Jake Gardiner remains unsigned (Photo via NHL Images).

Hayes considers Gardiner a top-four defenseman on most teams in the league and doesn’t believe he’s not getting calls. His back, which was injured last season, could be an issue but Hayes isn’t convinced that’s the case.

Hayes feels Gardiner wants to play for a specific club and believes it’s the Leafs, despite the flak he sometimes got from fans and media. Both men point out the blueliner was very popular with his Leafs teammates. 

Both agree it could depend upon the outcome of Mitch Marner’s contract talks. Johnson also wondered if the Montreal Canadiens could be a destination for Gardiner if there’s no deal to be had with the Leafs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve assumed Gardiner became the odd man out in the musical chairs that is the NHL UFA market. In other words, the teams that might have had interest in him no longer have sufficient cap space to sign him to a lucrative long-term deal. That would force Gardiner to accept a short-term deal for below market value. I also felt last season’s back injury might have scared off potential suitors. 

Hayes and Johnson, however, believe something else is afoot. They raise good points about Gardiner’s back and the possibility he prefers returning to the Leafs or only playing in specific markets. Nevertheless there hasn’t been a peep from the blueliner or his representatives that he’s close to inking a new deal.

I don’t see Gardiner returning to the Leafs unless Marner accepts a very affordable bridge deal, which I doubt he will. Still, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has done a good job juggling his club’s limited salary-cap space this summer. Maybe he’s got one more trick up his sleeve that could bring Gardiner back for one more year. 

GUSEV COULD STAY IN THE KHL

TSN: cites a report from a Russian news outlet indicating the agent for winger Nikita Gusev will advise his client to remain in the KHL if he isn’t re-signed by the Vegas Golden Knights or traded before a set date. Yuri Nikolaev said he’s aware the Golden Knights have received trade offers for his client but Gusev prefers to re-sign with Vegas. The two sides are reportedly around $2 million apart, with Gusev seeking $4 million and the Knights offering up $2 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears Gusev’s agent is trying to speed things along for his client. Over two weeks ago, it appeared the Russian winger’s NHL rights were on the verge of being traded but things have gone quiet since then. The Golden Knights’ limited salary-cap space could force Gusev to accept their offer if he’s determined to play in the NHL this season. 

FIVE NHL VETERANS WHO COULD NEED TRAINING CAMP TO GET NEW CONTRACTS.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Derick Brassard and Andrew MacDonald top Jared Clinton’s recent list of five veteran NHLers who could need training camp to land new contracts. Riley Sheahan, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Tobias Rieder round out the list. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if all five accept professional tryout offers if they remain unsigned when September rolls around. Some of them could also avoid that possibility by inking cheap one-year deals in hopes of bolstering their value for next summer. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 23, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 23, 2019

Game recaps, plus the latest on Braden Holtby, Ryan Kesler, Chris Kreider and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Minnesota Wild regained hold of the final Western Conference wild-card berth by edging the Washington Capitals 2-1. Luke Kunin broke a 1-1 tie with the winning goal in the third period for the Wild (79 points), who hold a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes. The Capitals played without defenseman Michal Kempny, who is sidelined indefinitely with a leg injury.

Speaking of the Capitals, goaltender Braden Holtby said he will respectfully decline the invitation to the White House on Monday to celebrate the club’s Stanley Cup championship. “It’s one of those things that we have to think about, but with me, I’ve got to stay true to my values, and I’m going respectfully decline the offer,” Holtby said. Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly have also declined the invitation.

Jakob Silfverberg’s overtime goal gave the Anaheim Ducks a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks (Photo via NHL Images)

Jakob Silfverberg’s overtime goal gave the Anaheim Ducks a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Rickard Rakell scored twice for the Ducks, as he and Silfverberg each collected three points. The Sharks (95 points) sit four behind the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division and the overall Western Conference standings. Earlier in the day, Ducks general manager Bob Murray gave updates on forwards Ryan Kesler (hip) and Patrick Eaves (post-viral syndrome), indicating both players could be done for the season. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The NHL’s department of player safety suspected Lightning forward Yanni Gourde two games for a hit to the head of Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Turns out Oilers winger Tobias Rieder wasn’t okay with being singled out by team CEO Bob Nicholson for the club’s woes this season, despite Nicholson subsequently saying he and Rieder later laughed it off. “I think it’s kind of disappointing and I’m offended by it,” said Rieder, who added Nicholson spoke with him again and he’s accepted the CEO’s apology. Rieder said he wants to put this behind him and move on. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Rieder will be moving on all right. He’s a restricted free agent but Nicholson said the club won’t re-sign him. Rieder has the support of his teammates, who credit him for his hard work despite his offensive struggles this season. 

NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Chris Kreider is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has crossed the 28-game threshold, meaning he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer instead of a Group 6 UFA. “Binnington is 25 and in his sixth full season of pro hockey. But since he was under contract during the 2012-13 season, a lockout year in the NHL in which only 48 games were played, the number of games played to determine his free agency status was pro-rated down to 26.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, there’s no risk of Binnington hitting the UFA market if he and the Blues fail to agree to a new contract by July 1. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. While he could sign an offer sheet from a rival club, there’s a low probability of that happening. If he or the Blues file for arbitration he’d be ineligible to receive an offer sheet. 

TSN: Friday was another busy media day for Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. He called out his management for doing “a terrible job” in explaining the club’s rebuild plan to the fans, criticized Ottawa mayor Jim Watson for suggesting Melnyk was difficult to work with after negotiations for a new arena at LeBreton Flats fell through, and trolled the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild by claiming they forgot about defense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Senators did a “terrible job” explaining their rebuilding plan, the responsibility lies at the top with Melnyk. He claimed he kept his mouth shut regarding Watson and in the same breath claimed Watson was lucky he did so while saying the mayor’s comments were counterproductive. That’s hardly going to win Melnyk any support among Senators fans or local voters.

Melnyk didn’t call out the Leafs by name but everyone knew who he was referring to with his remarks about a team that’s been patching up its roster “for 53 years.” While he has a point about the Leafs defense, he’s not in the best position to criticize a provincial rival that’s sitting 37 points ahead of his club in the standings. 

What appears to be fake Twitter accounts claiming to be Senators fans supporting Melnyk also popped up on Friday. So yeah, kind of a weird day for the Senators. 

TORONTO SUN: Speaking of the Leafs, head coach Mike Babcock dismissed rumors of a rift between himself and GM Kyle Dubas following Babcock’s recent complaints about the roster depth. “If there was any slap at anyone, it sure wasn’t intended and that’s not what I meant to say.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The club’s recent struggles and the absence of several injured players probably have folks looking too closely at Babcock’s remarks for signs of dissatisfaction with management. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Craig Custance with the story of how The Internet Hockey Database aka HockeyDB.com came into being and how it’s become the most reliable source for statistical information among fans and pundits. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I discovered HockeyDB 20 years ago and it remains among my most invaluable research tools. I highly recommend it. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – March 22, 2019

Latest on Erik Karlsson, Matthew Tkachuk, and Tobias Rieder in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

COULD THE RANGERS TARGET KARLSSON?

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wondered if the New York Rangers might target San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson via free agency in July. Despite Karlsson’s injuries this season, he’s played well when healthy. He thinks the two-time Norris Trophy winner would love playing in New York. 

Could the New York Rangers pursue Erik Karlsson via free agency this summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Friedman is simply speculating here. There’s no indication Karlsson intends to test this summer’s UFA market or that the Rangers will pursue him if he does.

Since he joined the Sharks last September, reports out of San Jose have consistently indicated the Sharks willingness to re-sign Karlsson and his interest in staying there. Nevertheless, re-signing him will be expensive for the Sharks, who have over $57.5 million invested in 14 players with Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi also due to become UFAs while restricted free agent forward Timo Meier is due for a significant raise.

If the Sharks can’t re-sign Karlsson, maybe the Rangers will consider pursuing him. With over $61 million committed to 17 players and all their core players under contract for 2019-20, the Blueshirts can afford to sign Karlsson to a big contract. However, they’re also a rebuilding team. Management will have to sell Karlsson on what they’re doing and how quickly they believe they can become a Cup contender. 

FLAMES’ TKACHUK IN LINE FOR BIG RAISE

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Appearing on Ottawa’s TSN 1200, Darren Dreger speculates Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk could become the Flames’ highest-paid player this summer. He’s a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract but Dreger notes his performance and impact upon a deep Flames roster entitles him to his share of the pie. He points out the rising salary cap since the Flames re-signed Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan means there’s more money in the system and to spend. Dreger suggests Tkachuk’s new salary could be between $8.5-million to $9-million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can already hear some of you saying Tkachuk doesn’t deserve to be paid more than Gaudreau and Monahan. And if the salary cap was the same as it was in 2016-17 when those two signed their current contracts ($73 million), he wouldn’t get more than those two.

But Dreger’s right, the rising cap changes the market value each year. In three short years, Tkachuk has emerged as a top-tier power forward, averaging just over a point-per-game this season. At 21, he’s yet to reach his full potential. And potential is what teams pay for when they sign their young players. Some of you might not agree with it, but that’s the reality. 

OILERS CEO SCAPEGOATS RIEDER

THE SCORE: During a breakfast in Edmonton yesterday for Oilers season-ticket holder, team CEO Bob Nicholson singled out winger Tobias Rieder for the club’s woes this season. He said the team wouldn’t be re-signing Rieder, noting he hasn’t scored this season and missed “so many breakaways”, then said if Rieder had scored 10-12 goals, the Oilers would be in the playoffs. Nicholson later apologized to Rieder, saying his remarks were out of bounds and claiming the two laughed about it.  Rieder’s agent Darren Ferris called Nicholson’s remarks about his client “unacceptable”. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable why the Oilers will part ways with Rieder, who’s due to become a restricted free agent this summer. Perhaps his performance this season spells the end of his NHL career.

Still, he didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus like that. The Oilers woes run deeper than an underachieving depth forward. Nicholson understands this but if he doesn’t, he has no business being team CEO.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – January 25, 2019

Latest on the Oilers and Stars plus updates on Sergei Bobrovsky, Brett Pesce, Chris Kunitz, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

TRADE TIDBIT FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS” COLUMN.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Edmonton Oilers “checked in” on Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky but a couple of sources “threw cold water on that.” The Capitals are seeking “a couple of mid-to-high” draft picks for Burakovsky. Friedman also said the Oilers like speedy Detroit Red Wings winger Andreas Athanasiou but there’s no guarantee the Wings will move him, plus the asking price would be expensive.

There’s also speculation they were talking to the Chicago Blackhawks “about something bigger” and could be trying to shed winger Tobias Rieder to free up salary-cap space. A rumor suggesting a team was interested in Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard went nowhere. Friedman also suggests Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen’s new contract could be used as a comparable by Calgary Flames netminder David Rittich. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson recently said his club won’t peddle the future for quick fixes, which likely means they won’t be making significant moves before the trade deadline. Burakovsky could cost the Oilers one or two of those assets to acquire. Interesting that the Capitals apparently seek a couple of draft picks as earlier speculation suggested they wanted a player who could help their roster right away. 

Athanasiou is poised for a 30-goal, 55-point performance. He would be costly to acquire and I don’t see the Wings moving him now. The time for that was during his contract standoff during the summer of 2017. Seems like he and Wings management are on better terms now. 

Rieder carries a $2-million cap hit on a one-year deal. Maybe a playoff contender will take a chance on him regaining his form.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky won’t comment on his future plans (Photo via NHL Images).

While there’s an understanding Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky would “consider other situations”, there’s a theory he and his agent haven’t committed them to paper yet. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Bobrovsky might be willing to waive his no-trade clause but he may not have submitted a written list to Jackets’ management. Meanwhile, Bobrovsky isn’t commenting on his future plans.GM Jarmo Kekalainen maintains they’re hoping to convince Bobrovsky and fellow UFA Artemi Panarin to re-sign, though acknowledging they could face difficult decisions if keeping them beyond this season isn’t possible. 

Friedman speculates the Toronto Maple Leafs were watching Brett Pesce, not Dougie Hamilton, during their recent scouting of the Carolina Hurricanes. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s widely assumed the Hurricanes seek a scoring forward in exchange for one of their right-shot rearguards. Friedman said, however, the Leafs aren’t willing to part with Kasperi Kapanen or blueline prospect Rasmus Sandin.

While contract negotiations are ongoing between the Ottawa Senators and pending unrestricted free agents Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, Friedman said there doesn’t seem to be much discussion with winger Ryan Dzingel. He could fetch a decent return if the Senators decide to shop him. 

Friedman believes a few playoff contenders are considering Chicago Blackhawks winger Chris Kunitz. He suggests the Calgary Flames would be a good fit. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kunitz’s performance has steadily declined since 2013-14. The Flames already have one fading veteran on the roster in James Neal. They don’t need another. 

Friedman cited BSN’s Adrian Dater reporting the New York Rangers were scouting the Colorado Avalanche. While it could be tied to Rangers like Kevin Hayes or Vladislav Namestnikov, New York’s interest could be in a top prospect like Shane Bowers or much more. The Avs, however, will “zealously protect” their best draft assets. Friedman also believes the Avs will explore defenseman Nikita Zadorov’s trade value. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been some speculation out of Colorado suggesting Hayes would be a good fit for the Avalanche, who need secondary scoring. But if the Avs won’t part with a good young asset, the Rangers could look elsewhere for a suitable trade partner. 

Friedman reports the Dallas Stars are dangling Brett Ritchie, Valeri Nichushkin and Mattias Janmark.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars are in need of secondary scoring. Perhaps one or two of those guys will be used as trade bait to address that issue.