NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2021

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.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov (NHL Images).

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.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract extension. The annual average value is $5.4 million.

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.

NHL.COM’s Brian Compton tweets the New York Islanders signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a PTO, inked goaltender Cory Schneider to a two-way contract and signed Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle.

Freelancer Ken Campbell reports Edmonton Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith is still quarantining after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccination. He’s expected to miss the first week of training camp.

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.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Motte remains sidelined by an undisclosed injury suffered on April 29 in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’ll miss the start of training camp and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 1, 2021

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.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 18, 2020

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.










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.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 26, 2020

What next for the Lightning after re-signing Mikhail Sergachev? What effect will the end of Johnny Boychuk’s career have upon the Islanders’ cap space? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois remains confident he’ll get restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak under contract after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev yesterday.

Does Mikhail Sergachev’s new deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning signal a trade of Tyler Johnson is coming? (NHL Images)

Sergachev’s new contract puts the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. BriseBois acknowledged he’ll have to move players to free up sufficient cap space to sign Cirelli and Cernak. “There’s a lot of progress being made,” he said. “We’re working on a bunch of different fronts, there’s a lot of balls up in the air. Nothing has materialized yet.”

Smith believes the Sergachev signing suggests the Lightning GM has a move in place or in the works to clear cap space. Winger Tyler Johnson is the top trade candidate. He’s provided BriseBois with a list of eight or nine preferred trade destinations but Smith said things are quiet on the Johnson front.

Winger Alex Killorn could be another trade candidate. He’s got three years left on his contract with a $4.45 million annual average value and a modified no-trade clause.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz also listed Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat as Lightning trade options. They’ll have more trade value than Johnson and Killorn but they’re also better players. He also wonders if they’d consider moving Cirelli or another player with a big contract though neither option seems ideal.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy speculates BriseBois will likely have to package Johnson with another asset to move him and his $5 million AAV off their books.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois didn’t need to rush to sign Sergachev. Perhaps he got wind of another club thinking about signing the young blueliner to an offer sheet. That doesn’t seem to be the case if Sergachev’s comments about wanting to retire in Tampa are anything to go by.

The Lightning GM could indeed have a deal in the works to move Johnson or someone else like Killorn. I doubt he trades Gourde or Palat. He won’t want to take on additional salary in return so a sweetener like a high draft pick and/or top prospect will have to be packaged with Johnson.

It’s been a while since a notable trade was made. The last occurred on Oct. 12 when the Vegas Golden Knights shipped Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. BriseBois could wait until confirmation for the start of this season is finally released by the league.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz looked at what’s ahead for the New York Islanders’ offseason after Johnny Boychuk announced his playing career is over because of an eye injury.

His decision clears the way for the Isles to signed restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal. The Isles have $3.9 million in cap space but can exceed the $81.5 million cap by the equivalent of Boychuk’s $6 million annual average value. It could also provide room for their rumored pending deals with winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.

The end of Boychuk’s career is a further blow to the Islanders defense corps after trading away Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche several weeks ago in a cost-cutting move. Gretz wonders if Isles GM Lou Lamoriello would’ve made that move had he known what would happen to Boychuk.

Bringing back Greene could help their blueline and promising Noah Dobson is waiting in the wings. UFA options include Zdeno Chara, Sami Vatanen, Ben Hutton or Slater Koekkoek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The priority is signing Barzal. As Gretz points out, however, his new contract will bite deeply into that additional cap space.

Lamoriello will try to keep that as low as possible. Gretz suggests $7 million annually for Barzal would be the low end but the Isles GM could try to push that down to $6 million on a short-term deal with the promise of a bigger payday down the road.

He’ll need to keep it at the low end if he’s already got contracts lined up for Martin, Greene and Schneider. Failing that, he’ll have to consider a cost-cutting trade or burying someone like Andrew Ladd in the minors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2020

The latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cory Schneider, the updated salary-arbitration list and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace recently reported contract talks between the Blue Jackets and Pierre-Luc Dubois have stalled. The 22-year-old center is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (NHL Images)

Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, however, isn’t concerned by the lack of progress in contract talks with the Dubois camp. “It’s funny how everyone’s worried about RFAs, because I’m not worried at all,” he said on Tuesday. “They get done when they get done.” He pointed out contract talks for defenseman Zach Werenski weren’t settled until right before training camp last year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen has every reason to be unconcerned. Dubois lacks arbitration rights plus there’s uncertainty over what league revenue will look like over the next couple of years. Those factors alone give the Jackets GM the hammer in contract talks.

The Jackets have over $12 million in cap space so there’s plenty of room for Dubois’ next contract. I think Kekalainen will attempt to get Dubois under a short-term bridge contract with the promise of a bigger payday down the road.

NHL.COM: New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said Friday he’s considering signing Cory Schneider. The goaltender had his contract bought out by the New Jersey Devils, making him an unrestricted free agent. “There’s a good sort of chance of that transpiring,” said Lamoriello.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on Oct. 12 the Isles were finalizing a one-year, $700K deal with Schneider. Lamoriello gives nothing away, of course, but LeBrun is a well-respected, well-sourced NHL insider. He probably got that info from someone close to the Isles’ front office or the Schneider camp.

I suspect the Islanders’ limited cap space explains why this hasn’t been finalized yet. They’ve got $8.9 million remaining but Lamoriello must also re-sign RFAs Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock. Once that’s sorted out, the Schneider contract will be probably be finalized.

NHLPA.COM: Only six players of the 26 who filed for arbitration this year are slated for hearings. Carolina’s Warren Foegele’s is on Nov. 4, the New York Rangers’ Ryan Strome on Nov. 5, the Rangers’ Brendan Lemieux and the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock are on Nov. 6, Ottawa’s Christian Jaros is on Nov. 7, and Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar is on Nov. 8.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Only one – Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi – went before an arbiter. There’s a good chance the rest could be settled before their respective hearings.

THE SCORE: Ontario premier Doug Ford said Saturday his government is engaging with the Ontario Hockey League on a safe return-to-play plan for this season that must be confirmed by health experts. “To date no decisions have been made. I would like to see the OHL return as normal as possible with bodychecking.”

Ford’s remarks contradict comments made by Ontario sports minister Lisa MacLeod on Friday. She stated “prolonged or deliberate contract while playing sports is not permitted” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wonder if Premier Ford got a phone call from NHL headquarters regarding MacLeod’s comments. The OHL is one of the NHL’s main development leagues. They would probably frown upon their promising prospects being forced to play an entire season without bodychecking.