NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 1, 2020

The Lightning eliminate the Bruins, the Avalanche stay alive against the Stars, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: For the fourth time in six years, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to the Eastern Conference Final. Victor Hedman scored in double overtime as the Lightning edged the Boston Bruins 3-2 to win their second-round series four games to one.

Tampa Bay LIghtning defenseman Victor Hedman (NHL Images)

Hedman had a goal and an assist while teammates Brayden Point and Kevin Shattenkirk each had two assists. Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli scored in regulation for the Bolts, who played without winger Nikita Kucherov as he left the game before the third period after being high-sticked by Zdeno Chara in the first period. David Pastrnak and David Krejci scored for the Bruins.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning did a good job keeping Boston’s top line under wraps as this series went on. The Bruins’ lack of secondary scoring and the absence of starting goalie Tuukka Rask were contributing factors to their early demise.

After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season and winning the Presidents’ Trophy this season, questions are being asked if the Bruins’ championship window is closing. Asked about his future plans, the 43-year-old Chara said he hadn’t reached a decision, intending to be open-minded.

No word yet as to how long Kucherov might be sidelined. Bolts blueliner Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup since being sidelined in the first game of this series.

The Colorado Avalanche avoided elimination by riding a five-goal first period to a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of their second-round series. Avs third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson made 31 saves in his first-ever playoff start while the Stars’ Ben Bishop was pulled after giving up four goals on 19 shots. Nathan MacKinnon scored a goal and collected an assist, giving him a playoff-leading 23 points. Andre Burakovsky scored twice and added an assist. The Stars still lead the series 3 games to 2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop was shaky in his first start since Aug. 13 but he had little help from his teammates. The Stars were flat-footed and unprepared in the first period, outshot 23-5 in the first period.

SPORTSNET: The New York Rangers hired Jacques Martin as their new assistant coach.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jeremy Rutherford cites sources claiming St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Bill Armstrong is believed to be a finalist for the vacant Florida Panthers GM position.

TSN: Thirteen NHL clubs will carry salary cap overages into next season. The Stars lead the list with over $2.9 million, followed by the Bruins ($1.928 million), Vancouver Canucks ($1.7 million), Carolina Hurricanes ($1.367 million), and Buffalo Sabres ($1.275 million). Because of the unusual circumstances emerging from this season, those teams have the option of dividing that amount equally over the next two seasons.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Edmonton Oilers re-signed forward Patrick Russell to a one-year, $700K contract extension.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said the club intends to honor defenseman Andrei Markov, who spent his entire 16-season NHL career with the Habs.    

 

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we examine the latest on the Flames and Oilers, plus how the elimination of the UFA interview period could be a win for the players.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES AND OILERS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently examined the effect of a flat salary cap ($81.5 million) on the Calgary Flames for next season. With nine forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender under contract, they have less than $17 million to work with.

Of their restricted free agents, Cruickshank assumed the Flames will retain Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. He suggested shopping Mark Jankowski’s rights or letting him become an unrestricted free agent by not qualifying his rights.

Cruickshank doesn’t expect the Flames can afford to keep both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic. Both are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. He suggested re-signing Brodie and letting Hamonic walk or shopping his rights for a pick at the 2020 NHL Draft. Trade deadline acquisitions Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort are unlikely to be re-signed.  Cruickshank expects UFA goalie Cam Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere, leaving the Flames in need of an affordable backup (like Anton Forsberg) for David Rittich.

Trade rumors have dogged Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (Photo via NHL Images).

That won’t leave much room to pursue a free-agent star such as winger Taylor Hall unless they make a couple of significant cost-cutting moves.

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis also speculated the Flames will retain Brodie during a recent mailbag segment. He was also asked if the Flames might replace Talbot and winger Johnny Gaudreau with Robin Lehner and Hall. Francis felt there’s a remote possibility to sign Lehner but it made no sense to dump Gaudreau to sign the more expensive Hall.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis also noted the trade speculation dogging Gaudreau over the past year-and-a-half, expecting such a move will eventually happen. The 26-year-old has fallen out of favor with Flames fans since a disappointing performance in last year’s playoffs followed by sub-par production during this season.

Another dissatisfying postseason effort on Gaudreau’s part will ramp up the trade speculation during the off-season. He lacks no-trade protection for next season, but his $6.75-million annual average value could be difficult to move under a flat cap.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined the Edmonton Oilers’ cap situation. For next season, they could use their leverage to re-sign Ethan Bear (no arbitration rights) to a cheap one-year contract. Trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou (restricted free agent) could return at his current salary ($3 million) while veteran goalie Mike Smith (UFA) should return.

Willis speculates winger James Neal and defenseman Kris Russell could be bought out, though the latter could be shopped with 50 percent salary retention (in real dollars worth only $750K to his new team).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect most of Willis’ scenario for next season will play out as expected. Smith is in the twilight of his career and could accept another one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary.

ELIMINATION OF UFA INTERVIEW PERIOD COULD BE A WIN FOR PLAYERS

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the recent elimination of the five-to-seven day window for clubs to interview pending UFAs in the CBA extension is a win for the players. With little time for general managers to prepare, it could spark a return to the opening-day bidding wars of the past.

Larkin suggests it will be the end of media leaks leading up to the noon ET start of free agency. It could also mean fewer signings on opening day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While this isn’t a rumor, this will affect the UFA market going forward.  The absence of the interview period means there will be more intrigue leading up to the start of the free-agency period. It will also mean we could see some notable UFAs taking several days to sign.

The flat cap could also affect the market value for the top UFA. Larkin speculates that could change in a year or two as hockey-related revenue improves, thus raising the salary cap.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020

Check out the latest speculation on the Oilers and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS FACE A CAP SQUEEZE

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently reported the Oilers will be squeezed by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21. With over $71 million already invested in next season’s payroll, general manager Ken Holland will have around $10.5 million available.

The Oilers restricted free agents include Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, and Matt Benning. Their unrestricted free agents include Mike Smith, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis.

Staples feels $10.5 million should be enough to retain those free agents or bring in potential replacements. However, it rules out the possibility of pursuing a big-ticket free agent. He knows some Oilers followers would love to see the club bring back winger Taylor Hall, but that doesn’t seem possible, especially with younger players like Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard in need of contracts down the road.

Could the Edmonton Oilers consider an off-season buyout of James Neal’s contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

It could also be difficult to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson if the cap stays flat for 2021-22. Both are due to become UFAs next summer.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also examined the difficulties facing the Oilers under a flat cap.

He speculates useful UFAs like Smith and center Riley Sheahan could find cost-conscious offers unacceptable. The Oilers could also trade or walk away from RFAs like Athanasiou or Benning, who have arbitration rights.

For those without arbitration rights like Bear, Mitchell speculates they could get an affordable one-year bridge deal. They could also consider trading Kris Russell or Alex Chiasson or buying out winger James Neal’s contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fates of some of those free agents could depend upon their play in the upcoming playoff tournament. The same goes for Russell, Chiasson, or Neal. I agree that those players lacking arbitration will probably have to accept bridge deals for a year or two.

As Staples observed, Russell could be enticing to a cost-conscious club looking to reach the cap floor. He carries a $4 million cap hit but will earn just $1.5 million in actual salary after being paid his $1 million signing bonus for 2020-21. That’s assuming one of those clubs will be on his 15-team trade list for next season.

Cap Friendly indicates buying out Neal would free up over $3.8 million, leaving just over $1.9 million against the Oilers cap. However, it would also be that much dead cap space annually for the next six seasons.

Holland could be reluctant to move Chiasson. He carries an affordable $2.15 million cap hit for next season.

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl recently examined several potential free-agent forwards who could help the Sabres improve their road record. He suggested Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikail Granlund, Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov, or Florida’s Erik Haula.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli, a skilled two-way player with Stanley Cup experience, would be the best bet. Granlund struggled following his trade from Minnesota last season but improved when John Hynes took over as Predators coach at midseason.

Both could provide a welcome boost to the Sabres’ secondary scoring. Signing them, however, could be difficult given the Sabres’ recent reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.










The NHL Buyout Barometer – Pacific Division (Part II)

The NHL Buyout Barometer – Pacific Division (Part II)

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the latest Oilers speculation and some suggested backup goaltender options for the Ducks.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers would be able to trade Kris Russell, and if Matt Benning would be retained and traded or let go.

Russell’s annual average value is $4 million through 2020-21. The 33-year-old defenseman is seeing third-pairing minutes on the Oilers’ blueline. Benning, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Spector feels general manager Ken Holland’s ability to move Russell will impinge on what he’ll offer Benning. He doesn’t see much sense in cutting Benning loose but expects he or Russell is likely to be moved to make way for a younger rearguard like Caleb Jones or Evan Bouchard.

Speculation persists linking Jesse Puljujarvi to the New York Rangers (Photo via NHL Images).

Asked if the Oilers could buy out Russell or winger James Neal, Spector doesn’t expect that to happen unless the NHL offers up compliance buyouts in the off-season.

(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Russell’s play and his cap hit will make him difficult enough to move. It gets tougher when his 10-team no-trade list climbs to 15 teams for 2020-21. They also can’t bury him in the minors because he has no-movement protection. Maybe they find a taker in the off-season, but I doubt it. I also agree with “Cousin Mark” about the buyout option.

Benning, meanwhile, could end up on the trade block if his contract talks become contentious. With Cap Friendly indicating the Oilers carry over $71 million invested in 16 players for next season, Holland can only offer Benning at best a modest raise over his current $1.9 million salary-cap hit.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports the New York Rangers would potentially part with a high draft pick to facilitate a swap of Lias Andersson to Edmonton for Jesse Puljujarvi. However, he’s been told the Rangers have more interest in Puljujarvi than the Oilers have in the slow-footed Andersson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Andersson-for-Puljujarvi rumor has floated around for a while, but I’m not convinced this is going to take place. Stranger things have happened but I don’t see the Rangers giving up a high draft pick to make this happen.

DUCKS BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently examined several possible backup goalie options for the Anaheim Ducks if Ryan Miller isn’t re-signed or retires. Among them are Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens does a good job breaking down the pros and cons of each netminder. Khudobin and Greiss could prove too expensive as both will be in demand. Smith and Anderson are coming to the end of their respective careers. Talbot could seek a starter’s job after regaining his form this season with the Flames.

The Ducks could be forced to consider more affordable short-term options to spell off John Gibson, but that might not be suitable to ease his heavy workload.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 20, 2020

The NHL schedule may be paused, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over off-season trades and free agency. Check out the latest on the Blackhawks and Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT BOWMAN’S RETURN MEANS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the Blackhawks decision to retain president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton indicates the club remains committed to retooling, not rebuilding. That means retaining their aging (though still productive) core and attempting short-term tinkering instead of a roster teardown.

Nevertheless, Pope believes salary-cap limitations mean jettisoning some salary. He thinks new contracts for Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik will flesh out the Blackhawks’ growing youth corps, which includes Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz is critical of the Blackhawks’ decision, pointing out questionable roster management decisions in recent years have made things worse over the short- and long-term. The Hawks have struggled where similar clubs with high-priced veteran talent (Washington, Pittsburgh) have succeeded.

Gretz cites trading away Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen as part of cap-related moves hurt the Hawks. Lesser deals, such as swapping Dominik Kahun and Henri Jokiharju for Olli Maatta and Alex Nylander, failed to pan out. They also got underwhelming returns on Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson at the trade deadline.

Could Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad once again become a salary-cap casualty? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only saving grace for Bowman of late is the recent influx of young talent, such as DeBrincat, Kubalik, Strome, Murphy, Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach. Otherwise, the Blackhawks’ future would be quite bleak.

Nevertheless, Bowman is once again saddled with a cap-strapped roster. With over $73 million invested in 17 players and free agents like Strome, Kubalik, and Corey Crawford to re-sign, he must once again cut costs.

Winger Brandon Saad surfaced in the rumor mill in the weeks leading up to last month’s trade deadline. He was a cap casualty in the past. With a year left on his contract and an annual average value of $6 milion, I believe he’s their most likely off-season trade candidate.

LATEST OILERS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: Mark Spector believes Mike Smith has played well enough this season to earn a one-year contract with the Oilers. Since December, the 37-year-old netminder went 12-3-4 and tied for the second-most points accrued by a goalie since Jan. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers have over $70 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Assuming the cap remains at $81.5 million, they won’t have much cap room unless they can shed some salary to re-sign or replace key players. Smith must accept a significant pay cut to stay in Edmonton.

THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell believes Oilers veterans Kris Russell, James Neal, and Alex Chiasson could be among the Oilers squeezed out to make room for younger talent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russell is signed through 2020-21 with a $4 million AAV, Neal through 2022-23 at $5.75 million AAV, and Chiasson through 2020-21 at $2.15 million. Chiasson would be the easiest to move via trade. Russell and Neal could be more difficult and might involve taking back a salaried player.

If the league and the NHLPA agreed to a one-time amnesty buyout because of the loss of revenue wrought by the coronavirus, Russell and Neal would be prime candidates.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently cited Jesse Puljujarvi’s Finnish head coach saying the young winger would be best off playing another season in Finland. Puljujarvi is a restricted free agent embroiled in the contract dispute with the Oilers. The 23-year-old Finn opted to play for his hometown club Karpat this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some media chatter after Puljujarvi became ineligible to play in the NHL this season suggesting he could have some value if the Oilers attempted to trade him this summer. It’ll be interesting to see what that assessment by his Finnish coach might have upon his trade value if Edmonton GM Ken Holland decides to shop him.