Jonathan Toews to take some time away from hockey, updates on Panthers defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, and long-time Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret passes away. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
CHICAGO HOCKEY NOW: Jonathan Toews issued a statement yesterday regarding his plans for the future. The former Blackhawks captain indicated that he is not fully retiring but is taking some time away from the game of hockey.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (NHL Images).
Toews cited the health issues he suffered through long-COVID and chronic immune response syndrome that sidelined him in 2020-21 and hampered his performance over the past two seasons.
The 35-year-old center became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, bringing to an end his 15 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Toews’ statement, he intends to spend the coming season “to fully heal and enjoy life to the fullest once again”. However, he also seems to be leaving the door open to a possible NHL comeback.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito provided an update on Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. Both defensemen are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Zito said both players are healing and on schedule with their respective recoveries. “It’ll be a month or two. Is it four (months)? Probably not Is it one (month)? Probably not. That’s as well as I could get, but every time I check in, I’m told (they’re) on schedule.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A month or two would put both players within range of returning during training camp or the start of the regular season.
BUFFALO HOCKEY NOW: Long-time Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret passed on Thursday at age 81 from multi-organ failures. The iconic voice of the Sabres began broadcasting their games in 1971 until his retirement at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Jeanneret received the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award in 2012 for broadcasting. He was also a member of the Sabres Hall of Fame.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tributes to Jeanneret are widespread on traditional and social media. He was one of hockey’s greatest broadcasters. His call of Brad May’s series-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in the 1993 playoffs (“May Day!”) ranks among the best in sports history. It still gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it.
DAILY FACEOFF: Mathieu Schneider and the NHL Players Association are parting ways after 12 years. He began working with the PA after his playing career ended, going on to become second-in-command to former executive director Donald Fehr. The move comes several months after Marty Walsh took over from Fehr.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks top prospect Connor Bedard isn’t the only member of his family to skate for the club. His great-great uncle, James Bedard, played 22 games as a defenseman for the Hawks from 1949 to 1951.
How will the Golden Knights replace sidelined goalie Robin Lehner? What’s the latest on Coyotes’ defenseman Jakob Chychrun? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
EXAMINING THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ OPTIONS TO REPLACE LEHNER
THE ATHLETIC: With Robin Lehner sidelined for the upcoming season by hip surgery, Jesse Granger examined the Vegas Golden Knights’ options to replace the 31-year-old goaltender. If Lehner goes on long-term injury reserve, they’ll have roughly $7 million in usable cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights are already above the $82.5 million salary cap for 2022-23 by over $5.7 million with Shea Weber on long-term injury reserve. Most of Lehner’s $5 million cap hit is expected to be used to sign their remaining restricted free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They would have to be careful in how much of that cap wiggle room they invest in other players. Spend too much and they won’t have enough room to address their goaltending if Thompson, Brossoit and Hutchinson can’t get the job done.
If they decide to seek a replacement for Lehner outside the organization the pickings are slim. Braden Holtby remains unsigned but his career may be over due to injuries. Granger noted Cory Schneider is still available. He spent the past two years in the AHL.
New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget about free agency. Holtby’s done and Schneider’s last decent NHL season was 2017-18.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps included Varlamov among his list of suggested trade options. He also mentioned the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Joonas Korpisalo, the San Jose Sharks James Reimer, and the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello reportedly prefers to keep his goalie tandem intact for the coming season. As Krepps pointed out, however, there are rumors that he’s looking to clear cap space to sign free agent center Nazem Kadri officially. Lamoriello could change his mind provided the Golden Knights aren’t on Varlamov’s 16-team no-trade list.
The Blue Jackets signed Korpisalo to a one-year deal where he’ll be serving as Elvis Merzlikins’ backup so he’s probably unavailable. There is talk the Sharks could trade Reimer for the “right price”. Earlier this summer, Gibson denied rumors claiming he’d welcome a trade out of Anaheim. He carries a 10-team no-trade list.
Perhaps they could get Varlamov if the Isles are only looking to shed salary but I don’t think Lamoriello wants to move him. The Sharks will want something decent for Reimer while the Ducks’ asking price for Gibson could start with a first-round pick. Given he’s carrying a $6.4 million annual cap hit through 2026-27, they probably can’t afford him over the long term.
Granger also mentioned the possibility of signing Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger to an offer sheet. He points out that the Golden Knights lack their own second-round pick in 2023. That means an offer sheet would have to be between $4.2 million and $6.3 million to meet the compensation requirement of a first and third-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget it. The Stars have $10.3 million in cap space. I estimate it’ll take between $6.5 million and $8 million to sign Oettinger to an unmatchable offer sheet. The compensation there is a first, a second and a third-round pick. As Granger observed, they lack their own second-rounder next year.
Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recommends the Golden Knights avoid over-reacting, especially when the trade and free-agent markets won’t be kind. He suggests seeing how things play out with Thompson as their starter before exploring other options. I daresay that’s how management will handle this for now.
COULD THE COYOTES MOVE CHYCHRUN BEFORE TRAINING CAMP?
TSN’s Shawn Simpson recently took to Twitter reporting the feeling around the league is the Arizona Coyotes could trade Jakob Chychrun before training camp opens next month. He said the Ottawa Senators were among the teams in the mix but the Coyotes’ asking price for the 24-year-old defenseman is “ridiculously high”. He credits Senators GM Pierre Dorion for being patient.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyotes beat writer Craig Morgan of GOPHNX.com expects Chychrun will be in Arizona’s lineup when the season begins in October. He’s acknowledged that could change but feels the next best opportunity to trade the blueliner could be the 2023 trade deadline.
Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong tried moving Chychrun last season and during last month’s NHL draft. There’s plenty of interest in the blueliner but little in meeting Armstrong’s price, which is believed to be heavy on futures, including a first-round pick, a top prospect and a promising NHL-ready player.
It’s possible Chychrun gets moved before training camp or before the regular season begins. Unless Armstrong lowers his price, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath, especially with the rearguard under contract through 2024-25.
T.J. Oshie and Drake Batherson get dueling hat tricks in high-scoring Capitals-Senators game, the Panthers, Hurricanes and Blues remain undefeated, the Sabres upset the Lightning and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Washington Capitals defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-5 in a wild game that saw Washington’s T.J. Oshie and Ottawa’s Drake Batherson each tally a hat trick. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to move within four goals of Brett Hull (741) for fourth place among the all-time goal leaders. With seven goals, he takes over the goal-scoring lead from Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. The Capitals led 4-1 at one point but the Senators stormed back to tie it in the second period to make it interesting before the Caps regained the lead.
Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie (NHL Images).
Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour had two-point performances and Joe Thornton scored his first goal of the season as the Florida Panthers beat the Arizona Coyotes 5-3. The Panthers take over first place in the overall standings with a 6-0-0 record. Coyotes goalie Carter Hutton and defenseman Conor Timmins both left the game with lower-body injuries.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders Frederik Andersen made 24 saves against his former team to backstop his club over the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin each had two points for the Hurricanes, who remain unbeaten at 5-0-0. Auston Matthews tallied his first of the season (the 200th goal of his career) for the slumping Leafs, whose record drops to 2-4-1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of unhappiness in Leafs Nation as their club’s early-season woes are drawing comparison to their similar difficulties two years ago. That led to a November coaching change as Sheldon Keefe replace Mike Babcock. Could Keefe face a similar fate if the Leafs fail to reverse their fortunes? Stay tuned…
Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals and Ville Husso turned in a 34-save shutout as the St. Louis Blues blanked the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. The Blues extended their record to 5-0-0.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues, Hurricanes and Panthers join the Edmonton Oilers as the only clubs to remain unbeaten through their first five games of the season. It’s the first time in league history four teams begin the season with records of at least 5-0-0.
The Buffalo Sabres stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-1. Craig Anderson made 35 saves for the win while Victor Olofsson scored twice for the Sabres, who maintain their surprising hot start with a 4-1-1 record. The Lightning are still without winger Nikita Kucherov, who could be sidelined for another eight weeks by a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning definitely miss Kucherov’s offense but other factors are also behind their stumbling start. Their forward depth was depleted by this summer’s departures of Tyler Johnston, Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow. A shortened offseason also gave them less time than most clubs to rest and prepare for this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 31 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. On his way to pre-game warmups, Merzlikins was heckled by a Stars fan making a negative comment about the death of his close friend Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed in a fireworks accident in July. “I was expecting a shutout because I believe in karma,” said Merzlikins. “There is some stupid people in this world. That was really, really bad what happened in the tunnel when I was walking out. There was a fan from Dallas who (provoked) me about Matiss.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are some disgusting people in this world whose lives are so pathetic that their only source of joy is trying to incite sadness or anger in other people. Good on Merlikins for not letting that douchebag’s remarks knock him off his game.
A 28-save shutout by Jacob Markstrom and two goals from Andrew Mangiapane carried to the Calgary Flames to a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers. Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund each had a goal and two assists for the Flames, who’ve now won three straight games.
NHL.COM: Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, and New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 24, 2021.
YARDBARKER: The Vegas Golden Knights have moved Max Pacioretty (fractured foot) from injured reserve to long-term IR.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move provides the Golden Knights some flexibility to call up a player or acquire one via trade. However, they must become cap compliant when Pacioretty returns to the lineup.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed defenseman Kris Letang tested positive for COVID-19 and remains in COVID protocol.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury after being checked awkwardly into the board by the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos on Saturday.
NBC SPORTS: The New Jersey Devils confirmed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood received his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine last week. He’ll have to continue following league protocols for unvaccinated players until two weeks after his second dose.
TSN: New York Islanders goaltender Cory Schneider hit the waiver wire yesterday. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks placed forward Alexander Volkov on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.
THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Colin Wilson opens up about his addiction to drugs, including cocaine and prescription drugs. He cited the recent death of Jimmy Hayes motivating him to come clean about his addiction.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a difficult but invaluable story that everyone should read. Wilson’s tale will hopefully motivate other players with addictions to seek help and perhaps provoke more positive change with the NHL toward addressing this issue.
The Wild sign Kirill Kaprizov, the Blues Jackets re-up Elvis Merzlikins and the Blues ink Robert Thomas. Check out the details of these signings plus the latest PTO contracts and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Kirill Kaprizov to a five-year, $45 million contract on Tuesday night. The annual average value of the deal is $9 million. This comes on the eve of the Wild opening training camp today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report adds Kaprizov is in North America, will travel to Minnesota today and will be in training camp tomorrow. The 24-year-old winger’s one NHL season has raised questions over whether he’s worth that type of contract.
The Wild, however, had no choice. Kaprizov may have a short body of work but he won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season, becoming the most exciting offensive star they’ve had since Marian Gaborik was in his heyday 15 years ago. Cap Friendly indicates they’re also facing a short-term cap crunch over the next three seasons. They needed certainty over how much he’ll cost them per season, especially when the salary cap begins rising again.
Kaprizov now faces the pressure of justifying that hefty raise and building on his promising NHL debut. If he does, the Wild should remain a legitimate playoff contender despite their upcoming salary-cap issues. If not, things could get ugly very quickly for him and for general manager Bill Guerin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing cements Merzlikins as the Blue Jackets’ starting goaltender. It also means Joonas Korpisalo could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent unless he’s moved before the March trade deadline if the Jackets are out of playoff contention.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues inked center Robert Thomas to a two-year, $5.6 million contract with an annual average value of $2.8 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s the same deal teammate Jordan Kyrou recently signed but there was speculation Thomas would get less than that because of his struggles last season. The signing pushes the Blues above the cap by around $1.3 million but it’s expected they’ll offset that by placing sidelined forward Oskar Sundqvist (knee injury) and his $2.75 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve to start the season.
The Blues must become cap compliant when Sundqvist returns to action. That could come about via demoting or trading a lower-salaried player or perhaps they’ll find a trade partner for Vladimir Tarasenko by then.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan to a professional tryout offer. The 34-year-old winger played for the Wings last season.
TSN: Alexander Galchenyuk signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes. The 27-year-old forward last played for the Coyotes in 2018-19.
TSN: The Philadelphia Flyers announced center Kevin Hayes underwent abdominal surgery and will be sidelined four to six weeks and defenseman Samuel Morin will be out six to eight weeks recovering from knee surgery. Forward Wade Allison is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ll feel Hayes’ absence for the opening weeks of this season. His spot as second-line center could be filled by Morgan Frost.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have barred forward Zac Rinaldo from attending training camp due to his unvaccinated status. He’s on a one-year, two-way contract and has been vocal in his stance against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. He’ll instead attend the training camp of their AHL affiliate in Cleveland later this month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo can forget about getting called up by the Jackets. The club is taking a firm stance on ensuring all its players are fully vaccinated, operating under the NHL’s COVID protocols for this season.
SPORTSNET: After 42 years in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson has retired. He called his first game on radio in 1979 and become the main play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and national broadcasts on HniC.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hughson and his family for a happy retirement.
The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.
Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.
Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.
The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.
TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.
How will the Capitals replace Henrik Lundqvist? Will the Blues go the free-agent route to replace retired Alexander Steen? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir wonders how the Washington Capitals will replace Henrik Lundqvist as a heart condition has sidelined the 38-year-old goaltender for this season.
Could Ryan Miller be an option for the Washington Capitals to replace Henrik Lundqvist? (NHL Images).
Among the options is signing an unrestricted free agent. Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard are available. It’s believed Miller prefers to remain out west with his family but El-Bashir wonders if he’d be tempted by the opportunity to play for a contender during a shortened season.
The Capitals could go the trade route or bring in Vitek Vanecek or Pheonix Copley to back up Ilya Samsonov.
SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen believes the Capitals’ limited cap space makes it difficult to trade for a goaltender. In addition to Miller and Howard, he listed Craig Anderson and Cory Schneider as UFA options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller prefers staying in California and could sign a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. If that’s not possible, maybe he’d consider joining the Capitals.
Anderson is 39 and it appears his NHL days are over. Schneider is believed to have an agreement with the New York Islanders to be officially announced once they’ve signed Mathew Barzal.
Howard is keen for a bounce-back season following a poor 2019-20 performance with the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. He could be the Capitals’ best bet if they cannot find a suitable replacement for Lundqvist via trade or from within.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports Alexander Steen’s retirement due to a back injury will provide the St. Louis Blues with salary-cap flexibility. They’re sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.2 million but will get some wiggle room by placing Steen and his $5.75 million cap hit for this season on long-term injury reserve. They will use part of it to sign restricted free agent defenseman Vince Dunn, who might cost approximately $2.5 million.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the Blues could also use that cap relief to add a scoring winger. His suggested free-agent options include Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and Andreas Athanasiou.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also suggested Hoffman, Granlund and Athanasiou, as well as forward Erik Haula as UFA targets for the Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues could get additional cap relief by placing sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR. However, he’s expected to return later this season, prompting Rutherford to speculate they probably won’t “borrow” from his $7.5 million cap hit.
Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. Maybe he’d accept a lower price to play for a contender but I think he’ll try to stick to his guns. Granlund, Athanasiou and Haula could be more affordable options.