NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2023
Marc-Andre Fleury ponders his future, sale of the Senators receives league approval, plus the latest on Logan Couture, Robin Lehner, Max Pacioretty and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury is entering his 20th NHL season but hasn’t decided yet if it will be his last. The 38-year-old Minnesota Wild goaltender is in the final season of his contract and said he’ll play out this campaign before evaluating if he’ll continue his playing career.
Fleury has 544 career wins. He needs just eight more victories to pass Patrick Roy for second place on the all-time wins list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s hard to believe sometimes that Fleury’s been in the NHL this long. I told one of my social media followers that it seemed like I was watching him play in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles yesterday. That was over 20 years ago.
OTTAWA SUN: The sale of the Ottawa Senators to billionaire Michael Andlauer finally received formal approval from the NHL Board of Governors yesterday. At $950 million dollars, it’s the highest price ever paid to purchase an NHL franchise.
Following the purchase, Andlauer released an open letter to Senators fans stating that his goal is to bring the Stanley Cup to Ottawa. He also sought to assure them about the club’s future under his ownership. “My partners and I may be the team owners on paper, but this team truly belongs to Ottawa-Gatineau,” he wrote. “I promise to take care of your team with the utmost respect, integrity and care both on and off the ice.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The late Eugene Melnyk deserves credit for rescuing the Senators nearly 20 years ago (with the help of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) and keeping them in Ottawa at a time when the franchise was bankrupt and on the verge of relocation. Nevertheless, Melnyk’s mercurial style and front-office meddling generated uncertainty and concern among Senators fans over the quality of the on-ice product and the club’s future in Ottawa.
A new era has begun for the Senators. Andlauer was a minority owner of the Montreal Canadiens before purchasing the Sens. He knows the league, understands the business of hockey, and appears determined to bring stability to this franchise and a winning product on the ice. He still has to navigate toward the construction of a new downtown arena but the odds appear better under his stewardship than they were during the final years of Melnyk’s tenure.
Speaking of the Senators, center Josh Norris downplayed concern regarding a minor shoulder ailment that saw him start training camp with a yellow non-contact jersey. “I think they’re looking out for me and I totally get it,” said Norris, who missed all but eight games last season to shoulder surgery. He said he didn’t want to be in that jersey but acknowledged it was probably the best thing to take precautions and be ready for the start of the season.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: The rebuilding Sharks got bad news as team captain Logan Couture will miss the start of training camp. He’s listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury that he suffered during offseason training.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no timeline for Couture’s return. It’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for the club’s season debut on Oct. 12.
DAILY FACEOFF: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner remains sidelined indefinitely and will start the season on long-term injured reserve. He missed all of last season recovering from hip surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reports also indicated that some wonder if Lehner will ever play again. He’s signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $5 million.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of uncertain injury recovery timelines, Capitals winger Max Pacioretty has “no concrete timetable yet” for when he’ll join his new club. The 34-year-old winger played only five games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes as he was twice sidelined by a torn right Achilles tendon. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Capitals this summer as a free agent.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams continues to work on getting young defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power under contract extensions before the start of this season. The two sides appear to be closing in on deals following a week of intense negotiations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dahlin and Power are the linchpins of the rebuilding Sabres’ blueline. It’s not surprising that Adams hopes to sign the two defensemen to long-term contracts with average annual values that could become team-friendly over the course of their playing prime.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Speaking of the Sabres, promising forward Matt Savoie is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury suffered during a prospects tournament game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks opened training camp missing three of their young core players. Center Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale are still without new contracts as negotiations continue with management. Meanwhile, forward Mason MacTavish was dealing with a muscle spasm.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacTavish could rejoin his teammates as early as today. It’s uncertain as to when Zegras and Drysdale will be under contract. Reports from earlier this week claimed there’s a “wide gap” between them and management over what their new deals will look like.
THE DENVER POST: Valeri Nichushkin has rejoined his Colorado Avalanche teammates for the first time since taking a leave of absence from the club during their first-round series against the Seattle Kraken in April. The 28-year-old winger was welcomed back by his teammates “with open arms”.
Nichushkin’s departure was the result of an incident in Seattle in which a team doctor found an intoxicated woman in the winger’s hotel room and called an ambulance, according to a police report. He was not disciplined over the incident by the team or the league and faced no charges over the incident.
“I know you guys want to find something there, but it’s nothing really interesting,” Nichushkin told the media. “I think we should close it. It’s a new season right now. We have to focus on that.” He said that his extended absence from the Avs was due to a “family reason.”
CALGARY SUN: Oliver Kylington missed the start of Flames training camp without indicating when he’ll return to action. The 26-year-old defenseman missed all of last season to focus on his mental health. It was expected that he would rejoin his teammates this season after arriving in Calgary last week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kylington talked about his mental health during an interview this summer. He said he was looking forward to joining his Flames teammates this season. Here’s hoping he continues to get the help he needs to deal with this issue.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Sticking with the Flames, Nikita Zadorov has openly opposed his home country’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian defenseman is the sole NHLer among his countrymen to speak out against the invasion. He said he’s aware of the consequences he might face but claimed there are “a lot of people who have the same view as me in Russia.”
NYI HOCKEY NOW: Islanders winger Oliver Wahlstrom skated with the Islanders for the first time since suffering a season-ending lower-body injury last December. Defenseman Alex Romanov also joined his teammates, dispelling concerns that he might miss the start of training camp rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.
TSN: Vancouver Canucks winger Ilya Mikheyev left training camp for personal reasons. He’s been sidelined since January with a knee injury and underwent surgery the following month.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Wideman is sidelined indefinitely with a back injury.