NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2020

The NHL schedule remains paused but the off-season trade and free-agent speculation keep churning. Check out the latest on the Leafs and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS LIMITED CAP SPACE COULD HAMPER EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE BLUELINE

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox listed the biggest off-season questions facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Improving the blueline remains a pressing need, especially on the right side. Landing a dependable right-shot blueliner via free agency, like Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Tanev, Travis Hamonic, Justin Schultz, or Radkos Gudas, is a long shot. General manager Kyle Dubas could be forced into the trade market for someone like Matt Dumba, Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller and Josh Manson.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen become an off-season trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Leafs penalty kill also needs help. Fox believes that rings back to their need for more experienced stay-at-home defenders and a reliable face-off man. Their limited salary-cap space means Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson and/or Alexander Kerfoot could become trade candidates. The trio lack no-trade protection in their respective contracts.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the possibility of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season spells big trouble for the Leafs. They have around $77 million invested in 17 players, with restricted free agents Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, Frederik Gauthier and Denis Malgin to re-sign. Veteran forwards Jason Spezza and recently-acquired Kyle Clifford are unrestricted free agents.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas surprised many observers last summer (including me) with his ability to juggle his limited cap room to re-sign Mitch Marner to a lucrative long-term contract. He was able to do that in part because he could place permanently sidelined forwards Nathan Horton and David Clarkson on long-term injury reserve.

As Fox observed, Dubas won’t have that option this summer. He could gain some flexibility by acquiring another club’s permanent LTIR player. That’s what he did last summer by reacquiring Clarkson’s rights, but there’s no certainty he can pull off a similar deal again.

Kapanen, Johnsson, and Kerfoot often surfaced in this season’s rumor mill leading up to last month’s trade deadline. Dubas resisted moving either guy, but he could end up peddling one of them this off-season for a right-side defenseman. I don’t see either of those guys being sufficient to land Dumba or Manson, and the Sabres could be reluctant to send Ristolainen or Miller to a division rival.

LATEST ON THE BRUINS

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined the long-term outlook for the Boston Bruins. Their biggest challenges this off-season are re-signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Torey Krug and restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk. Gretz feels there’s enough salary-cap space to re-sign both, though there could be some pressure to keep Krug around the $6.5 million mark that the other core players receive.

Starting goalie Tuukka Rask recently hinting at retiring next year at the end of his current contract could be worth keeping an eye on. Backup Jaroslav Halak is a UFA this summer and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug suggested last fall he’d be willing to consider a hometown discount, but we haven’t heard anything further about that possibility. Perhaps a front-loaded deal in which Krug earns $7.5 million in actual salary at the start of a seven-year deal that gradually declines to $5 million by the final year would be acceptable to him. It would keep his cap hit around that $6.5-million range.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 16, 2020

Check out the recent speculation about Jacob Markstrom and Justin Schultz, plus a look at what the Coyotes must address in the off-season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CAN THE CANUCKS AFFORD TO RE-SIGN MARKSTROM?

VANCOUVER SUN: Ed Willes recently reported on how Jacob Markstrom‘s absence from the Canucks’ crease exposed the club’s porous defense. The Canucks struggled after Markstrom was sidelined by a knee injury, threatening their playoff hopes. Backup Thatcher Demko was decent, but his play wasn’t at Markstrom’s level.

Can the Vancouver Canucks afford to re-sign Jacob Markstrom? (Photo via NHL Images)

The 30-year-old starter is an unrestricted free agent. Willes reports of “a discrepancy in the goalie’s perceived value” in contract talks with management.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $63 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21. Chris Tanev is their other noteworthy UFA, while Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher, Tyler Motte, Adam Gaudette, and Zack McEwen are restricted free agents.

Assuming the cap remains at $81.5 million for next season, it won’t leave much room to re-sign everyone, especially since Markstrom could seek something around $7 million annually. They could attempt to shed salary by trying to move Loui Eriksson and his $6 million AAV, but that could prove easier said than done, especially if the salary cap doesn’t reach the projected $84 million to $88 million.

The Canucks could tap into this summer’s UFA market for a replacement. Washington’s Braden Holtby and Vegas’ Robin Lehner are the notable starters, but both could prove more expensive to sign than Markstrom.

SCHULTZ DONE IN PITTSBURGH?

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vensel recently reported the decline in Justin Schultz‘s performance this season could leave him facing an uncertain future in Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old defenseman is a UFA this summer, but the Penguins have limited salary-cap space to keep him. Given the drop in his play and the emergence of rookie rearguard John Marino, they might not want to re-sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schultz resurrected his career with the Penguins and was among their top-four defensemen until suffering a serious ankle injury last season. He could still be feeling the effects of that injury as he tries to regain his form. Schultz’s all-around blueline skills should make him a valuable free-agent commodity, but he’ll likely have to settle for less money on a short-term contract. 

COYOTES COULD HAVE A BUSY OFF-SEASON

THE ATHLETIC: Citing the Arizona Coyotes offensive struggles, Craig Morgan recently speculated they could face a busy off-season to address that issue. He feels they need a first-line center unless they want to wait for promising Barrett Hayden to develop. They still need a legitimate goal scorer and more production from their blueline. Their defense corps also lacks a physical presence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Their limited salary-cap space will hamper their efforts. They’ve got over $79.9 million tied up in 16 players. They can get cap relief if necessary by placing permanently sidelined winger Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) on long-term injury reserve. Their UFAs include Taylor Hall and Carl Soderberg. If the cap remains at $81.5 million, they’ll have to shed salary to re-sign or replace those two, but it won’t leave enough to bring in outside help.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2020

PHWA midseason award winners, All-Star Game skills competition participants announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the midseason favorite for the Hart Trophy (Photo via NHL Images).

The Professional Hockey Writers Association announced their 2019-20 Midseason NHL Award winners. Among them are  Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (Hart Trophy), Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (Norris Trophy), Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Vezina Trophy), and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (Calder Trophy). The PWHA also named Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander as their comeback player of the year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring serious injury or a significant decline in performance, McDavid is a lock for the Hart, Carlson for the Norris, and Makar for the Calder. Hellebuyck’s had an outstanding first half, but he’s struggled of late, which could affect his Vezina chances over the remainder of the season.

Participants for the skills competition for the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis were announced yesterday.

CALGARY SUN: The upcoming All-Star game is a family affair for Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk. The brothers grew up watching their father Keith play for the St. Louis Blues in the early 2000s until his retirement in 2010.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The effects of Kendall Coyne Schofield’s participation in the skills competition at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game are examined in a new documentary.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks owner Hasso Plattner voiced his support of general manager Doug Wilson despite the club’s disappointing season. “While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” said Plattner. He pointed to the club’s quick turnaround under Wilson after missing the playoffs in 2015.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Plattner’s confidence of Wilson, but I think the Sharks GM is facing the biggest challenge of his management career. He’s saddled himself with expensive veterans and doesn’t have much to draw upon in the prospect pipeline for trade bait.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs assigned defenseman Jake Muzzin to their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Muzzin’s imminent return is good news for a Leafs blueline that’s struggled in his absence.

CBS SPORTS: The Pittsburgh Penguins activated defenseman Justin Schultz off injured reserve.

TSN: Marc Methot believes his playing career has come to an end. He underwent knee surgery a year ago while with the Dallas Stars, but the knee continues giving him pain. The 13-year NHL veteran spent five seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Methot said he hasn’t made an official decision yet on his future.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2019

Patrick Kane has a four-point performance, Jack Eichel’s points streak comes to an end, the holiday roster freeze is now in effect, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored a goal and set up three others in a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad left the game with an injured right ankle. Earlier in the day, the Hawks revealed defenseman Brent Seabrook remained in Chicago for medical evaluation. Meanwhile, the Jets reclaimed goaltender Eric Comrie off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane led his club to a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets (Photo via NHL Images).

James van Riemsdyk scored twice and Travis Konecny collected three assists as the Philadelphia Flyers thumped the Buffalo Sabres 6-1. The Sabres played without captain Jack Eichel, who was scratched following an upper-body injury believed suffered during pre-game warmups. His 17-game points streak has come to an end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s absence highlights his value to the Sabres. He’s put this club on his back this season, determined not to miss the playoffs again. If he’s out for a lengthy period, it could spell doom to their postseason hopes.

Mathew Barzal scored in regulation and the game-winner in a shootout as the New York Islanders edged the Boston Bruins 3-2. Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck left the game to get stitches on his wrist after getting cut by a skate blade. Earlier in the day, the Isles activated Tom Kuhnhackl from injured reserve. The Bruins are 1-4-3 in their last eight games.

Ottawa Senators winger Anthony Duclair’s 20th goal of the season was also the overtime winner as his club beat the Nashville Predators 5-4. Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau collected three assists. The Predators overcame a 4-1 deficit to force the extra frame.

Minnesota Wild forwards Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello and Marcus Foligno each had a goal and two assists in an 8-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 3. Jakob Chychrun scored twice and Nick Schmaltz picked up three assists for the Coyotes, who lost goalie Darcy Kuemper to an injured right leg.

Chris Tanev’s overtime goal gave the Vancouver Canucks a 5-4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Canucks had blown 2-0, 3-1, and 4-3 leads before Tanev’s heroics in the extra frame. Elias Pettersson scored twice for the Canucks, who scratched Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson from this contest.

Three unanswered goals late in the third period lifted the Carolina Hurricanes over the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. Andrei Svechnikov, Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho were the goal scorers. Earlier in the day, Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard was fined over $1,900.00 for boarding Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat on Wednesday.

The Montreal Canadiens overcame a 2-0 deficit to down the Calgary Flames 4-3 on an overtime goal by Max Domi. It was the Habs’ sixth win in their last eight contests. Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm each had two points for the Flames.

The Dallas Stars overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. Tyler Seguin had two points, including the game-winning goal, while teammates Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg also picked up two points.

The Columbus Blue Jackets nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on an overtime goal by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Jackets winger Cam Atkinson left the game with a lower-body injury. Earlier in the day, they placed defenseman Andrew Peeke (broken finger) on injured reserve.

IN OTHER NEWS…

The NHL holiday trade freeze is now in effect until 12:01 am ET on Saturday, Dec. 28.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz is listed as week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks winger Kevin Labanc could miss the club’s weekend games with an upper-body injury. They also claimed forward Stefan Noesen off waivers yesterday from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Long-time hockey reporter Kevin Allen’s 34-year tenure with USA Today has come to an end.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Allen’s one of the best hockey scribes in the business. Here’s hoping he’s not out of the game for long.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2019

The Islanders set a franchise-record points streak, Sheldon Keefe gets his first win as the Leafs’ coach, Claude Giroux has a four-point game, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders extended their points streak to a franchise-record 16 games (15-0-1) with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brock Nelson scored twice (including his second straight overtime tally) while teammate Mathew Barzal collected three assists. Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist scored in his return from injury. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced Justin Schultz (lower body) and Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery) will be sidelined for a while. Bjugstad could be out for eight weeks.

Sheldon Keefe picked up his first win as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs as they snapped a six-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 30 shots while Auston Matthews netted his 15th goal of the season. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced Keefe signed a new contract through 2022.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux had a four-point performance in a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo via NHL Images).

Claude Giroux scored twice and set up two others leading the Philadelphia Flyers to a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping a four-game winless skid. Travis Konecny collected three assists in the victory.

Jordan Binnington had a 40-save shutout and Zach Sanford enjoyed the first four-point performance of his NHL career in a 5-0 blanking of the Calgary Flames. Sanford had a goal and three assists while Oskar Sundqvist tallied two goals. The Flames are winless in their last six games.

The Boston Bruins extended their points streak to six games by edging the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Brad Marchand scored twice and goaltender Tuukka Rask made a highlight-reel save with his blocker hand. The Sabres have dropped three straight and have just one victory in their last 10 contests.

An overtime goal by Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad completed a five-goal rally as his club downed the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. Ekblad and Brett Connolly each scored two goals. Ondrej Kase had a goal and an assist for the Ducks. The Panthers have surged into fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.

Third-period goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Eric Robinson powered the Columbus Blues Jackets over the Detroit Red Wings 5-4. The Jackets have won four of their last six contests. Tyler Bertuzzi scored twice for the Wings. The Jackets also announced Paul MacLean was joining their coaching staff.

The Vancouver Canucks netted five power-play goals on route to a 6-3 pasting of the Nashville Predators, extending the latter’s winless skid to six. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom kicked out 45 shots while teammates Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes each collected three points.

Jason Zucker netted the game-winner as the Minnesota Wild nipped the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Cale Makar tallied twice for the Avs.

Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Curtis McElhinney made 32 saves as his club held on for a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos left the game with a lower-body injury. The Bolts were also playing without winger Nikita Kucherov, who remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

The Dallas Stars blew a 3-0 lead but rallied to defeat the Winnipeg Jets 5-3. Jamie Benn tallied the game-winner and Corey Perry picked up three assists for the Stars, who’ve won five straight to sit fourth overall in the Western Conference.

The San Jose Sharks picked up their seventh victory in their last eight games by beating the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1. Logan Couture picked up the winner in overtime. Aaron Dell made 37 saves for the win.

Tyler Toffoli scored twice and Jeff Carter had a three-point night as the Los Angeles Kings thumped the Edmonton Oilers 5-1. Connor McDavid tallied the Oilers’ only goal. Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a broken fibula since their season-opener.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2019

The latest on the Leafs, Flames, and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COACHING CHANGE OR TRADE FOR THE LEAFS AND FLAMES?

TSN: Bob McKenzie doesn’t believe the struggling Calgary Flames are considering replacing Bill Peters as head coach. He reports general manager Brad Treliving is trying to shake things up with a trade but there’s nothing imminent on that front.

Darren Dreger said there’s ongoing speculation over the availability of certain players like Mark Jankowski, Oliver Kylington and Michael Frolik. He also suggests the possibility of moving defenseman Travis Hamonic as the trade deadline creeps closer, though they could also retain him if they’re a playoff club by that point. Hamonic is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Tyson Barrie’s poor start could make it difficult for the Toronto Maple Leafs to move him (Photo via NHL Images).

The Leafs ongoing struggles raised questions about coach Mike Babcock’s future in Toronto. McKenzie doesn’t believe the Toronto Maple Leafs are predisposed to a coaching change in-season. However, the Leafs can’t afford many more games like their 6-1 loss on Saturday to Pittsburgh.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle wonders what the Leafs will do with Tyson Barrie as his poor start continues to worsen. The defenseman’s recent play and tiny salary ($2.75 million) makes it hard for the cap-strapped Leafs to get a decent return. Mirtle suggests a deal for Colin Miller, who seems to have fallen out of favor with the Buffalo Sabres. He also proposed a deal with another club that retains salary to get the contracts to match, pointing out the Leafs showed off-season interest in Flames rearguard TJ Brodie.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan thinks the Leafs should address their backup goalie issues by trying to acquire Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Greg Wyshynski suggests they should go further by flipping Barrie and a sweetener to the Penguins for fellow UFA defenseman Justin Schultz.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A coaching change appears more likely in Toronto than Calgary. With the Leafs winless in six, Babcock’s future remains a hot topic. We’re also hearing more trade rumblings regarding the Flames than the Leafs, though that doesn’t mean the latter isn’t exploring the market.

Cap Friendly indicates the Flames and Leafs have limited salary-cap space. If they’re going to deal with each other, it’ll likely have to be dollar-for-dollar. Given Brodie’s recent medical scare, I don’t think he’s going anywhere for the time being. The Leafs can’t afford to take on Schultz’s $5.5 million cap hit unless the Penguins absorb a big chunk of it, which they’re unlikely to do.

The Sabres have more cap space (over $2 million) and could pick up a bit of Miller’s $3.75-milllion cap hit to get Barrie in return. But as we’ll see, they’re not in the market for a defenseman.

SABRES SEEK A FORWARD

WGR 550: Paul Hamilton reports Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill acknowledged he’s actively seeking a forward to improve his struggling club. He also admitted the difficulty in a salary-cap world of swinging a major deal in November.

That doesn’t mean Botterill will shop a defenseman. He wants to ensure he’s got sufficient blueline depth in case injuries strike. However, they already have nine blueliners on their roster and three NHL-ready rearguards (Lawrence Pilut, Will Borgen and Casey Nelson) in the minors.

Sidelined defenseman Zach Bogosian is close to returning to the roster. That means any trades the Sabres make could be dollar-in, dollar-out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill might be reluctant to move a defenseman but I don’t see how he can address his need for a scoring forward without parting with a blueliner. He’s got several potential trade chips on his blueline in Miller, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Marco Scandella.