NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 20, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s action, the Avalanche and Golden Knights prepare for today’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, Sidney Crosby addresses his future as he approaches his 1000th career NHL game, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A four-goal first period powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each had three points, Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists. The Panthers (24 points) sit in first place in the Central Division, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1) by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Nino Niederreiter scored twice and collected an assist for Carolina while Patrick Kane factored in each goal (one goal, two assists) for the Blackhawks, who sit one point behind the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane has to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s definitely been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They wouldn’t be jockeying with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division without Kane powering their offense.

The Edmonton Oilers won the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1. Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 20 saves for his fourth win since his season debut earlier this month. Jesse Puljujarvi and Gaetan Haas tallied for the Oilers while Rasmus Andersson replied for the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was really looking forward to this contest but it lacked the usual fireworks we’ve come to expect whenever these two clubs meet.

Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit turned in a 29-save shutout as his club blanked the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Jets center Mark Scheifele scored to extend his points streak to nine games. The Jets (21 points) sit one back of the second-place Oilers in the North Division.

HEADLINES

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights when they tangle later today with the Colorado Avalanche in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday game at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the first outdoor contest for the Golden Knights in franchise history.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to the lineup for this contest after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) will be a game-day decision.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. “I love playing here, and this is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career,” said Crosby, adding“I can’t really control what’s said or rumors and things like that.” Crosby will play his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby was referring to recent media speculation about his future with the Penguins if the club’s new management decides to rebuild. That doesn’t appear to be their intention. It’s worth remembering that he has four years remaining on his contract with a full no-movement clause giving him full control over his situation.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lower-body injury could keep center David Krejci from traveling with the Bruins for Sunday’s outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

TSN: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger believes his club’s fragile psyche is the reason behind their inability to score goals. “They’re fragile right now,” he said. “They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t see themselves celebrating.” The Sabres opened the season 4-4-2 and has dropped three straight since resuming their schedule after it was postponed for two weeks by an outbreak of COVID-19 among their players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are a mess despite their front-office purge and several notable roster changes during the offseason. That sparked recent speculation about captain Jack Eichel’s future in Buffalo. Bigger changes could be in store for the Sabres if they miss the playoffs again. Whether those adjustments would involve their franchise player is anyone’s guess right now.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen revealed to a Finnish newspaper that he suffered chest pains and significant drops of oxygen levels when he was sidelined by COVID-19. He was cleared to resume skating on Wednesday but has yet to return to action. He spent a team-high two weeks on the COVID protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Ristolainen can resume his playing career without any adverse aftereffects from the coronavirus.

NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announce forward Ivan Barbashev was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

The league also rescheduled March 28th’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to today. The Hurricanes game against the Blackhawks today has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.

TSN: The number of players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list dropped to 11 names yesterday. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Long-time Red Wings masseur Sergei Tchekmarev passed away yesterday at age 65. He’d been with the Wings since 1998.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tchekmarev’s family, friends and the Red Wings’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 19, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, another Stars game postponed, the league’s COVID-19 numbers are dropping, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Ottawa Senators 7-3. Matthews leads the league with 16 goals while his points streak has stretched to 15 games. Mitch Marner has a goal and three assists while Joe Thornton a goal and two assists. Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and an assist. Senators’ defenseman Thomas Chabot missed the game with an upper-body injury while Leafs forward Zach Hyman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is making an early case for the Hart Trophy this season.

Kyle Palmieri scored twice as the New Jersey Devils held on for a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored what proved to be the game-winner while Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 25 saves. Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak replied for the Bruins, who lost center David Krejci to a lower-body injury.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal gave his club a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Kevin Hayes collected two assists for the Flyers, who were playing their first game since Feb. 7 due to COVID-19. They will also play their upcoming outdoor game against the Bruins with six regulars (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun) sidelined because of the NHL’s COVID protocols.

The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New York Islanders’ eight-game points streak with a 4-1 victory. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves while Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust each had a goal and an assist while Evgeni Malkin collected two assists.

A 32-save shutout performance by Elvis Merzlikins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Cam Atkinson, Max Domi and Eric Robinson were the goal scorers. The Predators have dropped five of their last six contests.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scored to extend his points streak to five games as his club downed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen remains sidelined as he works on his conditioning after being sidelined for two weeks by COVID-19.

David Perron scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Brayden Schenn scored the tying goal for the Blues late in the third period, setting the stage for the winning goal by Perron, who had a three-point performance. Torey Krug and Marco Scandella returned to the Blues roster from injuries but Colton Parayko missed the game with a nagging undisclosed injury. Earlier in the day, the Sharks announced defenseman Erik Karlsson would miss at least the next two games with a groin injury.

The Los Angeles Kings nipped the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on a shootout goal by Gabriel Vilardi. The Coyotes overcame a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and the shootout.

Kevin Fiala scored what proved to be the winning goal as the Minnesota Wild beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. It was the Wild’s first win since Jan. 31 when their schedule was paused because of COVID-19 protocols.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars’ Saturday game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was postponed due to power outages related to recent storms in Texas. It’s the fourth straight Stars game postponed this week and the eighth of the season. They face potentially playing 44 games in 78 days if the NHL mandates the Stars must play all their remaining games if the regular season ends on May 10 as scheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will also depend on where the Stars are in the standings later in the season. The league could cancel some of their remaining games if they’re out of playoff contention within the final couple of weeks in the season. No point in having them play a pointless game against another non-contender.

ESPN.COM: The NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list continues to shrink, dropping to 13 players yesterday. The drop coincides with enhanced health and safety measures implemented by the NHL within the past two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The outbreaks earlier this month may have also served as a wake-up call for players and staff, making them more vigilant and adhering more closely to the league’s protocols.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets claimed well-traveled goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. It’s the second straight season the Jets have lost Comrie off waivers only to claim him back again later in the year.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez hopes to have an opportunity to play a game in Mexico City in an effort to expand the NHL’s brand. He’s also hopeful the Coyotes will one day take part in an outdoor game with one of their rivals.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 6, 2020

An update on Mathew Barzal and some recent Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello’s efforts to re-sign Mathew Barzal got easier with defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s playing career coming to an end. Boychuk will be placed on long-term injury reserve for the final two years of his contract, giving the Isles $6 million in potential salary-cap relief per season.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

That cap flexibility will be placed toward signing Barzal. The 23-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract. Gross doubts he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Industry expectations suggest he’ll sign a two- or three-year bridge deal from the Islanders worth an annual average value of around $7 million.

The Islanders still have to announce its deals with unrestricted free agents Matt Martin, Andy Greene and Cory Schneider. Gross expects Schneider will most likely try to resurrect his career with the Isles AHL farm team in Bridgeport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have $3.9 million in cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR allows them to exceed the cap by the equivalent of his $6 million AAV. Lamoriello could be waiting to find out when the season will begin before finalizing the Barzal contract and formally announcing the deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider.

An offer sheet for Barzal is possible but unlikely given the few teams with sufficient salary-cap space to make a significant offer. Lamoriello informed his rivals he would match any offer. I don’t see any of them trying to call his bluff.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined potential trade options for the Buffalo Sabres if they once again find themselves outside the playoff picture during 2020-21.

Winger Taylor Hall could be a valuable trade chip if the Sabres are out of contention by the trade deadline. He has a no-movement clause in his one-year contract but could approve a deal if the Sabres sink in the standings. Veteran center Eric Staal is also under contract for the coming season. His affordable $3.25 million cap hit could make him enticing in the trade market.

If things go south for the Sabres, O’Brien wondered if this could be the season they trade defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He also doesn’t rule out moving winger Sam Reinhart but considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are a contender this season those players won’t be going anywhere even at the risk of losing Hall to free agency next summer. Another disappointing performance, however, will see them become sellers at the trade deadline.










Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Mill – October 25, 2020

A look at some intriguing offseason trade candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently listed 6 intriguing players who could still get traded this offseason.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

He begins with Shayne Gostisbehere, noting the Philadelphia Flyers reportedly made the puck-moving defenseman available earlier in the offseason. Matt Niskanen’s sudden retirement and the Flyers’ subsequent addition of Erik Gustafsson (who plays a similar style to Gostisbehere) leaves the 26-year-old blueliner’s status uncertain in Philadelphia. Wegman suggested the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings as potential landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins’ and Jets’ limited cap space means the Flyers would have to take back some salary to move Gostisbehere to either of those clubs. Cap Friendly indicates he has three years remaining on his contract worth $4.5 million annually. The Kings can afford him but general manager Rob Blake already acquired Olli Maatta from Chicago and could be content to promote from within.

Wegman noted the trade speculation swirling around Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine. He pointed out Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will want either a top-six center or top-four defenseman as part of the return. The Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild are possible destinations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres landed Taylor Hall via free agency so I doubt they’re in the market for Laine. The Hurricanes could be a good fit but I don’t see them parting with any of their top-four defensemen plus they lack the depth in centers to pry Laine away from the Jets. The Wild need a proven top-line center, not a left-winger, so I don’t think they’re a fit.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they reportedly placed Jake Gardiner on the trade block. He’s tumbled down their depth chart and carries a $4.05 million cap hit, but could be a top-four defenseman for clubs like the Jets, Florida Panthers or New York Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gardiner’s contract runs through 2022-23 so the Hurricanes will either have to absorb part of that cap hit or take back salary to make this work. The Panthers and Jets are looking for more defensive-minded options, plus the latter has limited cap space. I don’t see the Rangers taking on his contract.

Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been frequently mentioned in trade rumors for some time, prompting Wegman to wonder if new Sabres GM Kevyn Adams might find a taker for him. The Sabres have a logjam at right defense and moving one of their right-side blueliners to the left side isn’t ideal. Wegman suggested the Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Jets as possible landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most reports out of Buffalo on Ristolainen suggested he was no longer on the trade block because head coach Ralph Krueger thinks highly of him. If so, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s need to shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev have Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson on Wegman’s list. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list, making him somewhat easier to move. Johnson has a full no-trade clause but is willing to work with the Lightning to work out a trade, but there were no takers for his $5 million AAV when he was placed on waivers. They’ll have to include a sweetener to move him. The Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators or Panthers could be destinations for one of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Detroit has the salary-cap space plus former Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is now the Red Wings’ GM. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if Killorn or Johnson would accept a trade to a rebuilding club like the Wings or the Senators.

The Panthers also have the cap space but could be unwilling to spend much higher than they already have. They could also be trying to woo back free agent Mike Hoffman. We also don’t know if Killorn or Johnson would accept getting traded to the Lightning’s less-successful rival.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 19, 2020

The latest on the Flyers, Islanders and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is still actively talking to teams, but the flattened salary cap is making it difficult to add players to his roster.

This is the most difficult offseason that I’ve ever seen,” said Fletcher. He feels the NHL is entering the Flat Cap Era. “As crazy as it is right now out there, I think next summer could be even worse in terms of having some paralysis in the market, and having just too many teams having to move money.”

Fletcher is also focused on the long term. Carter Hart and Travis Sanheim will be restricted free agents next summer while Scott Laughton is due to become an unrestricted free agent. Sean Couturier is two years away from UFA eligibility.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (NHL Images).

Carchidi observers forwards such as Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou remain available in the UFA market. However, he doesn’t know if Fletcher will pursue one of them.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall wondered what the Flyers’ recent signing of Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract means for Shayne Gostisbehere. Both defensemen play a similar offensive-minded style. While Gustafsson’s addition doesn’t guarantee Gostisbehere will be traded, Hall suggests it increases the possibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could make it more difficult for the Flyers to move Gostisbehere. As per Cap Friendly, the 27-year-old blueliner has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.5 million.

THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple reports unrestricted free agents Andy Greene and Matt Martin are expected to return with the New York Islanders. The Isles could also be in the market for a bargain third-line winger. He listed Derick Brassard, Carl Soderberg, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Riley Sheahan among forwards who might be available for the right price.

Staple added there’s nothing new regarding a recent rumor suggesting the Isles were close to trading defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million AAV for next season. He speculates perhaps the Isles could interest the New Jersey Devils in winger Leo Komarov, who has a $3 million cap hit for the next two years. Staple also thinks Andrew Ladd is a likely LTIR candidate given his recent injury history.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders have $8.9 million in cap space, but a new contract for RFA center Mathew Barzal will likely eat up most of that, while defenseman Ryan Pulock is also due for a significant raise. Pulock has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

GM Lou Lamoriello must shed salary to re-sign Barzal and Pulock and bring back Greene and Martin. Moving Boychuk could alleviate much of that cap concern, but Lamoriello could be forced to include a draft pick, prospect or young NHL player in the deal.

WGR 550: Brayton J. Wilson believes the Buffalo Sabres should revisit the idea of trading defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to provide themselves sufficient salary-cap flexibility for next season. The Sabres have a projected $13.645 million available but most of that will be taken up re-signing RFAs such as Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt and Linus Ullmark and perhaps bring back Dominik Kahun after he wasn’t extended a qualifying offer.

Ristolainen, 25, has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.4 million. Wilson feels it may be worthwhile under the current economic conditions to move the blueliner for less than market value, pointing to the Vegas Golden Knights accepting a third-round pick in 2022 from the Vancouver Canucks for Nate Schmidt.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ristolainen trade rumors had the Sabres attempting to move him in exchange for a scoring forward. That need has been addressed with the additions of Taylor Hall and Eric Staal.

It might be easier to move Ristolainen for a draft pick in a cost-cutting deal, but that’s assuming GM Kevyn Adams is willing to move him. Head coach Ralph Krueger apparently thinks highly of the Finnish blueliner and his opinion seems to carry considerable weight within the Sabres’ organization. Ristolainen probably won’t be shopped if Krueger wants him in the fold for next season.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 15, 2020

What next for the Golden Knights following their playoff elimination? How are Alex Pietrangelo’s contract talks going? What’s the latest on the Sabres? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes the Vegas Golden Knights must sort out their goaltending drama. Marc-Andre Fleury was supplanted in the starting goaltender role by Robin Lehner. Wyshynski reported a source claimed Lehner and the Golden Knights have a handshake agreement on a five-year contract extension. He wondered if the Golden Knights are prepared to invest a lot of money in Fleury and Lehner, or if Fleury even wants to stay.

Wyshynski also believes they should reexamine the center position, pointing out Paul Stastny is no longer a reliable second-line center. Unless Chandler Stephenson or Cody Glass can develop into that role, Wyshynski feels they should consider addressing that issue, potentially by moving out Stastny and his $6.5-million cap hit.

THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger speculates a new contract for Lehner could be a five-year, $25-million deal. With over $76.5 million invested in next year’s payroll, they’ll have to shed some salary to make room for Lehner and restricted free agents like Stephenson and Nick Cousins. He also suggests Fleury as a trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the 35-year-old Fleury is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $7 million and a 10-team no-trade list. Even if he agrees to narrow that list, his cap hit and age could make him difficult to move given the current economic conditions and the flooded market for goaltenders.

I’m not saying Fleury can’t be traded. However, the Golden Knights might have to pick up part of that cap hit or perhaps bundle him with a quality draft pick or prospect to facilitate a deal.

Stastny has one year left on his contract. Like Fleury, he has a 10-team no-trade list. At 34, he’s no longer as effective as he once was. His age and cap hit could also be a sticking point but having just one year left on his contract might make him a little easier to move.

PIETRANGELO DISAPPOINTED IN PROGRESS OF CONTRACT TALKS

THE SCORE: Brandon Maron cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reporting Alex Pietrangelo has found it “a little disappointing” that he and the St. Louis Blues haven’t reached an agreement yet on a new contract. The 30-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

Pietrangelo indicated there hasn’t been much progress in contract discussions. While he wants to stay in St. Louis, he understands the difficulty the Blues face re-signing him with just $5 million in salary-cap space. “I think you have to be willing to accept the fact that there may be a change one day,” said Pietrangelo. “Whether it happens or not, it certainly changes your mindset and makes things a little easier if you ever get to that point.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo would prefer staying in St. Louis because his wife is from there and they’ve raised a family there. However, he also noted a number of players have moved on after spending most of their careers in one city. It sounds like he and his wife are preparing for that possibility. There’s still enough time for Pietrangelo and the Blues to hammer out a deal, but that’ll depend upon his asking price and how much cap space they can free up.

LeBrun listed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers as possible destinations for Pietrangelo if he hits the open market. He acknowledged those three clubs have salary-cap issues but didn’t rule out one of them trying to find a way to sign the Blues captain.

LATEST ON THE SABRES

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl noted a recent report by TSN indicating the Buffalo Sabres could have an internal salary cap in the $70-million range. He suggested selling low on defenseman Brandon Montour, find a taker for blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen, and perhaps re-sign some of their restricted free agents to cost-effective one-year deals with the promise of raises next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Sabres currently have over $48.2 million committed to 10 players. Vogl points out re-signing key RFAs like Montour, goalie Linus Ullmark, and forwards Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson and Dominik Kahun could cost a combined $24.5 million, pushing them over $70 million and leaving little room for additions.

Moving Montour for a draft pick and perhaps a prospect will help. Vogl noted they couldn’t find an acceptable for Ristolainen and his $5.4-million cap hit plus head coach Ralph Krueger likes the blueliner’s game.