Check out the latest on Johnny Gaudreau and Claude Giroux plus Brian Burke addresses the Penguins’ offseason goalie trade speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported on the lack of a contract extension thus far for Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau. He said it wasn’t for lack of trying as both sides talked numerous times during the offseason.
Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).
Gaudreau has publicly stated he wants to sign past this season with the Flames. LeBrun still believes that’s the case and hasn’t found any evidence to suggest the Gaudreau camp has cut contract talks. He felt the two sides will continue discussions but will keep them out of the public eye.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can expect Gaudreau’s name to surface in trade rumors if he’s still unsigned when the calendar flips to January 2022. We’ll likely hear a lot more about him as the March 21 trade deadline approaches of the Flames are out of playoff contention.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps recently reported Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke addressed offseason rumors that his club was shopping for another starting goalie. He said it would be false to say they never looked at another netminder but it wasn’t a priority and not something they went looking for. Burke also shot down offseason rumors linking the Penguins to Marc-Andre Fleury after he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burke believes Penguins starter Tristan Jarry will have a big bounce-back season after his disappointing performance in last spring’s playoffs. If he doesn’t, however, the Penguins could start seriously seeking help between the pipes before the trade deadline.
Philly reporter Al Morganti (@nufced) on @SiriusXMNHL on the possibility of Claude Giroux moving this season: “The only place I could see him willingly go to would be Ottawa.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: By willingly, Morganti is referring to Giroux waiving his no-movement clause to accept a trade to Ottawa. That’s assuming he’s willing to go and the Senators want him. He’s not going anywhere as long as the Flyers are a playoff contender.
The Kraken get their first victory, impressive opening-night performances by Anze Kopitar & Tyler Bertuzzi, the Blue Jackets honor the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a big win, my take on the Senators finally signing Brady Tkachuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken picked up their first-ever NHL victory by holding off the Nashville Predators 4-3. Brandon Tanev scored twice and Jared McCann and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist. Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists for the Predators.
Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar (NHL Images).
Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar had a historic night in his club’s 6-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He matched his single-game career-high (five points) with three goals and two assists, joined Luc Robitaille and Jari Kurri as the third King to score a hat trick on opening night and became the oldest player (34 years, 51 days) in league history to collect five points in a season opener. Teammate Drew Doughty had a four-point night. It was a tough loss for the Golden Knights as captain Mark Stone left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period.
Detroit Red Wings center Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals but it was the Tampa Bay Lightning emerging victorious with four unanswered goals in a wild 7-6 overtime victory with Ondrej Palat tallying the winner. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman each had four points and Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Lightning.
The Columbus Blue Jackets honored the memory of the late Matiss Kivlenieks with a pregame ceremony, then went on to thump the Arizona Coyotes 8-2. Elvis Merzlikins made 36 saves for the win while Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied two goals and two assists and Max Domi collected three points.
Two unanswered third-period goals by Aaron Ekblad set the stage for Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Penguins forward Jeff Carter tallied his 400th career goal.
Andrei Svechnikov scored twice and added an assist to power the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Islanders 6-3. Frederik Andersen made 25 saves for his first victory with the Hurricanes.
An overtime goal by Miro Heiskanen lifted the Dallas Stars over the New York Rangers 3-2. It was a costly win for the Stars as defenseman John Klingberg left the game twice with an apparent leg injury while goaltender Braden Holtby was sidelined by dehydration with 11:53 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin stepped in and stopped all six shots he faced.
The Buffalo Sabres got off to a good start to this season with a convincing 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Victor Olofsson and Zemgus Girgensons each had a goal and an assist.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg made a career-high 46 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators opened a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a third-period rally by the Leafs, who also lost goaltender Petr Mrazek with an apparent injury to his left leg late in the second period.
OTTAWA SUN: Speaking of the Senators, they finally signed Brady Tkachuk after he missed all of training camp and their season-opener. The 22-year-old left winger agreed to a seven-year, $57.5 million contract. The annual average value is over $8.33 million for this season, followed by an AAV of $8.205 million for the remainder of the deal. It also pays him $10.5 million in actual salary during the third, fourth and fifth seasons of the deal, and includes a full no-movement clause in the final three seasons. There are no signing bonuses.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a significant signing for the Senators, getting one of their best forwards under a long-term deal without ponying up any money upfront in each season. It’s still a good deal for the winger, making him the club’s highest-paid player in terms of annual average salary.
The Tkachuk camp had reportedly sought a three-year deal but general manager Pierre Dorion said what impressed him was the winger’s desire to stay in Ottawa for the long term. This move sends a positive message to the club’s long-suffering fans that they can retain their best young players.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL approved the Montreal Canadiens’ request to place Shea Weber on long-term injury reserve. The league will continue monitoring the defenseman’s health and injuries but he legitimately cannot play right now. This move also allows the Canadiens to activate Carey Price when the goaltender returns from the league’s player assistance program.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics believe Weber could return to the Canadiens’ lineup in time for the 2022 playoffs when his cap hit no longer applies. While that’s possible, everything I’ve heard and read coming out of Montreal suggests it’s also unlikely. Weber is reportedly recovering from three different injuries (knee, ankle, thumb) that could bring his career to an end.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog received a two-game suspension from the league’s department of player safety for boarding Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach on Wednesday.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Emil Bemstrom is out four-to-six weeks with a left oblique strain suffered during practice on Tuesday.
SPORTSNET: According to Sportico, the Toronto Maple Leafs has the highest value of all NHL franchises. The New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins round out the top five. In last place are the Arizona Coyotes.
Told forward Tobias Rieder is signing a 1-year deal with Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League.
Rieder, who has played 478 NHL games for 5 teams, was released from a PTO with the Ducks last week.
NOTABLE TIDBITS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports no change in the contract impasse between the Ottawa Senators and left winger Brady Tkachuk. They still want a seven- or eight-year contract while Tkachuk wants a bridge deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer this goes on the more concern will be raised about Tkachuk’s long-term future in Ottawa. He’s already played three seasons and a three-year bridge deal brings him to within one year of his UFA eligibility. I can understand the Senators’ rationale to avoid that scenario. However, a long standoff could cause irreparable harm to his relationship with management and send him out the door much sooner than the Senators prefer.
Friedman believes the New York Rangers’ re-signing Mika Zibanejad takes them out of the Jack Eichel trade market unless the Buffalo Sabres or a third party is willing to retain salary. “New York can’t do it at $10M”, referring to Eichel’s annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Or the Rangers shed $10 million to make room for Eichel’s full cap hit, which also seems unlikely.
The Philadelphia Flyers informed Travis Konecny at the end of last season they could’ve easily traded him as there was lots of interest in the winger. However, they didn’t want to do it because they felt he’s too important and too good to give up on. Konecny rewarded that faith by showing up fit and ready to go for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher fired a shot across Konecny’s bow. He’s a terrific player but was inconsistent and seemed distracted at times during last season. If he’s put those issues behind him the Flyers will be thankful they stayed patient with him.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Chicago Blackhawks have a surplus of centers and there’s a good chance Dylan Strome could be traded within the next week or two. He said there are some teams “kicking tires” on the 24-year-old center.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also believes Strome could be a trade candidate. “Head coach Jeremy Colliton is talking about him as a fourth-liner, and that’s not a place he will thrive.”
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli said the Blackhawks aren’t facing pressure to move Strome. However, they’re actively listening to offers and considering their options.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the New York Rangers have given Vitali Kravtsov’s agent permission to talk to other clubs about a trade. He claims there’s “definitely interest” in the 21-year-old winger, who was selected ninth overall by the Rangers in 2018.
TSN: Chris Johnston suggested there is precedent for the acquisition cost, pointing out the Rangers shipped former first-rounder Lias Andersson to the Los Angeles Kings last fall for the 60th overall pick (second round) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Some more Jack Eichel speculation plus the latest on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently reported Jack Eichel remains adamant about undergoing artificial disc replacement. While the procedure has never been done on an NHL player, some teams are warming to the idea if they can acquire him from the Buffalo Sabres.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
Those interested clubs, however, are insisting on having a conditional aspect tied to any trade based on Eichel’s recovery and health. He’d be sidelined for four months with no guarantee he’ll be fully fixed up. The Sabres will thus have to alter their trade demands. General manager Kevyn Adams acknowledged an Eichel deal would have to come with conditions likely tied to games played, etc.
LeBrun believes the Minnesota Wild are out of the Eichel market because it would take moving a lot of cap space to absorb the center’s $10 million annual average value. He doesn’t see the Philadelphia Flyers getting involved based on their offseason moves. The Los Angeles Kings also don’t seem to be that involved.
The Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks did their due diligence and LeBrun believes they’re still in it to some degree. The Ducks make the most sense as they’re rebuilding with youth but he wondered how much it would cost them to acquire Eichel. He also believes there are other suitors yet to be identified.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also didn’t see the New York Rangers pursuing Eichel. He made that assessment before the Blueshirts re-signed Mika Zibanejad, a move that should take them out of the market for the Sabres center.
It appears the teams with the best chance of acquiring Eichel are those with plenty of salary cap space, as well as promising trade bait such as extra draft picks and/or prospects and young NHL players.
The Ducks would fall into that category and would make the most sense. However, the asking price could be Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale and I don’t see them parting with either guy.
The Ottawa Senators would be a prime candidate but who knows if cantankerous Senators owner Eugene Melnyk would sign off on this. The Columbus Blue Jackets have lacked a true first-line center for years and also possess the assets to swing a deal. The same goes for the Arizona Coyotes but they might not be keen to take on that big salary.
I’m skeptical that the Flames can land Eichel. Cap Friendly shows them with just $300K in projected cap space entering this season so they’ll have to dump a lot of salary to take on his contract. Some will suggest offering Johnny Gaudreau given his UFA status next summer or Sean Monahan with a year left on his contract. However, their respective no-trade clauses could prevent a trade with the Sabres. Let’s not forget the Sabres would want assurances of signing either guy which they likely won’t get.
NEW YORK POST: Mark W. Sanchez reports Rangers general manager Chris Drury is attempting to trade defenseman Libor Hajek. They’re carrying him on the roster for now rather than risk another club plucking him off waivers. The chance of moving him within the next couple of days appears minimal.
Fox could be eyeing a deal comparable to the $9 million AAV Cale Makar signed this summer with the Colorado Avalanche. Promising winger Kaapo Kakko is also slated for RFA status next summer.
NEW YORK POST: Before the Zibanejad signing, Larry Brooks was skeptical of the Rangers acquiring Eichel. On Oct. 9, he suggested the only way the Blueshirts could afford Eichel and Zibanejad was if the Buffalo Sabres absorbed 40 to 50 percent of the 24-year-old center’s $10 million annual cap hit.
Brooks dismissed the likelihood of Sabres owner Terry Pegula agreeing to that. He believed Pegula would prefer shipping Eichel anywhere else but the Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers aren’t acquiring Jack Eichel unless Zibanejad’s new contract is part of some elaborate “sign-and-trade” deal by general manager Chris Drury. Otherwise, they’ll have to shed $10 million in cap space to fit Eichel’s cap hit within their payroll. Doing that would weaken their depth.
Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with over $62 million invested in 16 players for 2022-23 with Fox, Kakko, Alexandar Georgiev and Ryan Strome among their notable free agents. Fox and Kakko are coming off their entry-level contracts and lack arbitration rights. Georgiev has arbitration rights while Strome is a UFA.
I don’t see the Rangers taking the hard-line with Fox. He’ll get at least $9 million, maybe more after winning the Norris Trophy last season. That will push the Rangers’ cap payroll to over $71 million with $11 million remaining for the others. They can likely afford most of them but it could be expensive to find a suitable replacement for Strome if he hits the open market.
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes Senators GM Pierre Dorion will take a close look at the waiver wire to see if he can add another center with Colin White on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He could also go the trade route for help, perhaps by targeting a cap-strapped club.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks don’t have to worry about losing Alex Nylander through waivers. He’d been previously designated as waiver-eligible but Cap Friendly now indicates he’s exempt because he was sidelined throughout last season. He still needs another pro season or 53 NHL games to be waiver-eligible.
The Panthers signed Aleksander Barkov to a lucrative extension, more nations name their first players to their respective Olympic teams, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Mackenzie Blackwood & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers yesterday signed Aleksander Barkov to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension. The 26-year-old center will earn an annual average value of $10 million.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the deal is heavy with signing bonuses, starting at $11 million annually in the first three seasons, dropping to $10.6 million, $9 million, $7 million and finally $6.2 million in the final two seasons. Barkov also gets a full no-movement clause in the first eight seasons, becoming a modified no-trade for the final two seasons.
Barkov earned this contract as the Panthers’ captain and franchise player. He’s one of the NHL’s elite two-way forwards, earning the Selke Trophy last season. He’s crucial to their hopes of becoming a Stanley Cup contender.
TSN: More countries yesterday named their first players to their respective 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics mens’ hockey teams.
Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee” since they’re barred from competing under their country’s name and flag due to a doping scandal that has “banned” their athletes from international competition) named Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov and Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Seattle Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider joins Germany’s team.
Denmark named Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seattle Kraken center Alexander True.
Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier, and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier were named to Switzerland’s squad.
Slovakia named Dallas Stars defenseman Andrej Sekera, Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Erik Cernak and Vancouver Canucks goalie Jaroslav Halak to their roster.
Latvia added San Jose Sharks winger Rudolfs Balcers, Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Kristians Rubins.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Speaking of Ovechkin, the Capitals captain will be re-evaluated for a lower-body injury suffered during Friday’s preseason contest with the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE ATHLETIC: Mackenzie Blackwood underwent two inconclusive COVID-19 tests on Thursday and Friday. The New Jersey Devils expected to know by Sunday whether their unvaccinated goaltender has contracted COVID for the second time.
If he tests positive on Sunday, he’ll be unavailable to the Devils for 14 days and ineligible to play or practice until Oct. 21. The Devils could also suspend him without pay during that period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackwood’s about to learn the consequences of being an unvaccinated player in the NHL. The league has implemented strict protocols to protect its players and staff and to avoid a repeat of the outbreaks last season that wreaked havoc on its schedule.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forward Calle Jarnkrok has entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. It doesn’t necessarily mean he has the coronavirus but could instead be a close contact of someone who is infected. The Kraken recently announced all their players were fully vaccinated.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Max Domi could be returning to the Blue Jackets roster much sooner than expected. Told he’d require five months to recover from shoulder surgery in June, he could be in the lineup for their season-opener next week against the Arizona Coyotes.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Caleb Jones is expected to miss six weeks with a left wrist strain.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian will be in concussion protocol for the next several days after striking his head on the ice during a fight with Vancouver Canucks forward Zack MacEwen on Thursday night.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins forward Curtis Lazar is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Auston Watson suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. There’s no timetable for his return.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators assistant coach Todd Richards could be back behind the bench for the club’s season-opener against the Seattle Kraken on Oct. 14. Richards suffered a heart attack on Oct. 1 and has been resting at home.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s great news for Richards. Here’s hoping he continues making a full recovery.
NHL.COM: The Devils signed center Frederik Gauthier to a one-year, two-way contract.
TSN: The Colorado Avalanche released forward Artem Anisimov from his professional tryout offer.
SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators have approval from the Ontario government to host full capacity in their respective arenas for their home games this season.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes played only four preseason games instead of the mandatory six as per the CBA. However, they were among several teams granted an exemption this year due to the pandemic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A supposedly juicy aspect of this is the Montreal Canadiens apparently brought the number of Hurricanes’ preseason games to the attention of league officials. It’s something else that some observers believe could stoke the recent rivalry between the two clubs.