NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2023

Results and reaction from the first round of the 2023 Draft, Jim Nill is named NHL GM of the Year, Mike Babcock receives a two-year contract from the Blue Jackets, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: To no one’s surprise, the Chicago Blackhawks chose top prospect Connor Bedard with the first-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday evening in Nashville.

Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson (left) poses with 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard (NHL.com).

With the second-overall pick, the Anaheim Ducks chose Swedish center Leo Carlsson. The Columbus Blue Jackets chose Hobey Baker Award-winning center Adam Fantilli with the third-overall pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bedard is the most highly-touted prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015 and Auston Matthews in 2016. He’s considered a potential generational talent who could form the foundation of a Blackhawks resurgence over the next several years.

The Ducks choosing Carlsson over Fantilli was a bit of a surprise as the latter was expected to go second overall. Nevertheless, both players have the potential to become future stars with their new NHL clubs.

The Montreal Canadiens had the highest pick among the Canadian teams at No. 5 overall. They chose Austrian defenseman David Reinbacher.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reaction on social media among Canadiens fans ranged from disappointment to outrage. Most were hoping the Habs would select Russian winger Matvei Michkov, who was subsequently chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers with the No. 7 selection.

Reinbacher is considered the top defenseman in this year’s draft class. Canadiens GM Kent Hughes explained that their selection was based in part on roster need (depth among right-handed defensemen) and the inability to scout Michkov in person because of NHL and IIHF travel restrictions to Russia due to that country’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

With the sixth overall pick, the Arizona Coyotes chose KHL defenseman Dmitriy Simashev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This choice was a bigger surprise than the Canadiens taking Reinbacher. Simashev is a promising blueliner who was considered a top-10 prospect by some experts while others had him going outside the first round.

Others who went higher in the draft than I expected included the Coyotes selecting forward Daniil But at No. 12, the Nashville Predators choosing defenseman Tanner Molendyk at No. 24 and the Toronto Maple Leafs taking forward Easton Cowan 28th overall.

The St. Louis Blues held three picks in this round. They chose center Dalibor Dvorsky at No. 10, center Otto Stenberg at No. 25 and defenseman Theo Lindstein at No. 29.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was expected the Blues might trade one or two of their lower first-rounders for more immediate roster help. However, they couldn’t find any suitable deals and opted to retain those picks.

Here is the complete list of first-round selections:

1. Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, C

2. Anaheim Ducks: Leo Carlsson, C

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Adam Fantilli, C

4. San Jose Sharks: Will Smith, C

5. Montreal Canadiens: David Reinbacher, D

6. Arizona Coyotes: Dmitriy Simashev, D

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Matvei Michkov, RW

8. Washington Capitals: Ryan Leonard, RW

9. Detroit Red Wings: Nate Danielson, C

10. St. Louis Blues: Dalibor Dvorsky, C

11. Vancouver Canucks: Tom Willander, D

12. Arizona Coyotes (from Ottawa Senators): Danill But, LW

13. Buffalo Sabres: Zach Benson, LW

14. Pittsburgh Penguins: Brayden Yager, C

15. Nashville Predators: Matthew Wood, RW

16. Calgary Flames: Samuel Honzek, LW

17. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders via Vancouver Canucks): Axel Sandin Pellikka, D

18. Winnipeg Jets: Colby Barlow, LW

19. Chicago Blackhawks (from Tampa Bay Lightning): Oliver Moore, C

20. Seattle Kraken: Eduard Sale, LW

21. Minnesota Wild: Charlie Stramel, C

22. Philadelphia Flyers (from Los Angeles Kings via Columbus Blue Jackets): Oliver Bonk, D

23. New York Rangers: Gabriel Perreault, RW

24. Nashville Predators (from Edmonton Oilers): Tanner Molendyk, D

25. St. Louis Blues (from Toronto Maple Leafs): Otto Stenberg, C

26. San Jose Sharks (from New Jersey Devils): Quentin Musty, LW

27. Colorado Avalanche: Calum Ritchie, C

28. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Boston Bruins via Washington Capitals): Easton Cowan, RW

29. St. Louis Blues (from Dallas Stars via New York Rangers): Theo Lindstein, D

30. Carolina Hurricanes: Bradly Nadeau, LW

31. Colorado Avalanche (from Montreal Canadiens via Florida Panthers): Mikhail Gulyayev, D

32. Vegas Golden Knights: David Edstrom, C

DAILY FACEOFF’s Frank Seravalli tweeted that this was the first draft since 2007 in which no trades were completed in the opening round.

Steven Ellis listed the best prospects available during Day 2 of the NHL Draft. They include WHL winger Andrew Cristall, University of Michigan winger Gavin Brindley, and QMJHL winger Ethan Gauthier.

Rounds 2 through 7 go today at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville beginning at 11 am ET.

NHL.COM: Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill was named the winner of the James Gregory General Manager of the Year Award.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets will officially name former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock as their new bench boss on Saturday. He will receive a two-year contract worth $4 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The announcement comes Saturday because Babcock’s contract with the Leafs officially expires at midnight on Friday, June 30.

CALGARY HOCKEY NOW: The Flames signed forward Yegor Sharangoivich to a two-year, $6.2 million contract. He was acquired from the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday as part of the return for Tyler Toffoli.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said his team is focused on multiple sites for a new arena in the East Valley (Phoenix) area. They will be seeking locations that will not be subject to a public vote for approval.

The Coyotes recently lost a public vote on a proposed arena project in Tempe. They do not have a hard deadline from the NHL for locking down a new location.

Notable NHL Trades for June 27, 2023

Notable NHL Trades for June 27, 2023

The New Jersey Devils acquire winger Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils will be a very scary team to face in 2023-24. Imagine a first line centered by Nico Hischier with Ondrej Palat and Jesper Bratt on the wings with Toffoli skating on right wing on the second line centered by Jack Hughes with Timo Meier on the left wing.

Toffoli had requested a trade from the Flames after indicating he wasn’t interested in a contract extension. He’s coming off a career-best performance with 34 goals and 39 assists for 73 points. If he meshes well with Hughes and Meier, the Devils will possess an even more lethal scoring punch than what they had this season.

This move leaves the Devils with $19 million in cap space with 15 active roster players under contract. Meier remains to be re-signed which could eat up a big chunk of that cap space.

The Flames, meanwhile, get a decent return in Sharangovich. A restricted free agent coming off a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $2 million, he should be an affordable re-signing.

A versatile forward who can play center or on either wing, the 25-year-old Sharangovich is a year removed from a career-best of 24 goals and 46 points. His production dropped this season to 13 goals and 30 points as he was dropped to the Devils’ third line. He’ll get an opportunity to earn top-six minutes in Calgary.

The Winnipeg Jets trade Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forwards Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi and Rasmus Kupari as well as a 2024 second-round pick. The Kings also signed Dubois to an eight-year contract believed to be worth an average annual value of $8.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a major move by the Kings as they attempt to move from playoff contention status into a Stanley Cup contender.

Dubois, 25, is a top-six forward who can play center or wing. The 6’4”, 214-pounder is coming off a career-best 63 points with the Jets, reaching the 60-point plateau for the third time in five years. He can play a two-way game but does his best work in the offensive zone.

Coming off a one-year, $6 million contract, it was assumed the Dubois camp would seek over $9 million annually for their client. He’s still getting a healthy raise here on a long-term deal.

Winnipeg Jets trade center Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings (NHL Images).

Dubois comes with some baggage having forced the Jets (and before them, the Columbus Blue Jackets) into trading him. Nevertheless, Kings general manager Rob Blake believes he’s worth the investment. He’ll likely skate as their second-line left wing alongside Kevin Fiala.

The Jets wanted a return that helps them now and in the future.

Vilardi is the main addition here. The 23-year-old winger shook off early injuries that threatened his career to enjoy a career-best 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games this season. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, he should be an affordable re-signing for the Jets. If Vilardi can stay healthy, he should a productive forward in Winnipeg.

Iafallo, 29, plays a solid two-way game and should fit in well on the Jets’ checking lines. He’s signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $4 million. He had 36 points in 59 games this season, marking the fifth straight season he’s exceeded the 30-point plateau.

The 23-year-old Kupari is completing his entry-level contract. He’s split the past three seasons between the Kings and their AHL affiliate. He has potential as a playmaking forward who can play center or wing.

The Philadelphia Flyers traded center Kevin Hayes to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2024. The Flyers also retain 50 percent of Haye’s $7.14 million average annual value through 2025-26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the aftermath of a reportedly attempted trade by the Flyers and Blues that would’ve included defenseman Travis Sanheim going to St. Louis with Hayes and blueliner Torey Krug going to Philadelphia. Krug, however, nixed that deal by refusing to waive his no-trade clause.

The Flyers really wanted Hayes gone after he butted heads at times this season with head coach John Tortorella. They settled for retaining half of his cap hit to move him. It’s the second significant trade by new general manager Daniel Briere, who shipped Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this month in a deal involving the Los Angeles Kings.

With half of Hayes’ salary off their books, the Flyers have over $10 million in projected cap space for 2023-24 with 15 active roster players under contract. One wonders what other moves Briere might have up his sleeve in the coming days.

As for the Blues, GM Doug Armstrong appears committed to making a quick turnaround for next season after missing the 2023 playoffs. They’re getting a 31-year-old center who put up 54 points with this season’s floundering Flyers. He’ll likely slot in as their second-line center, which likely means they won’t be bringing back former captain Ryan O’Reilly, who was dealt to Toronto before the March trade deadline.

The Colorado Avalanche traded center Alex Newhook to the Montreal Canadien in exchange for the 31st overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the 37th overall pick and prospect Gianni Fairbrother

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is an affordable gamble by the Canadiens, who already possess a promising prospect pool along with several talented youngsters already on their roster.

Kent Hughes made one notable reclamation project last season by acquiring Kirby Dach from Chicago. Newhook looks like the latest one. He’s coming off his entry-level contract.

The 22-year-old is a former first-round pick by the Avalanche who has two 30-plus point seasons under his belt. Capable of playing center or wing, the 5’10”, 190-pounder he has good speed and playmaking abilities. He’s also of the right age to fit into the Canadiens’ rebuilding program.

Colorado, meanwhile, now holds two picks in the first round and one in the second of this year’s draft. They had no selections from rounds two through four before this trade so this move puts them in a much better position. They can retain those new acquisitions to restock their prospect pipeline or perhaps use them as trade bait to add to their current roster.

The New Jersey Devils traded goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2023.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once considered a future starting goalie for the Devils, Blackwood has been hampered by frequent injuries. The 26-year-old was limited to 47 games over the past two seasons.

A restricted free agent who’s a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility, Blackwood was no longer a fit with the Devils with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid as their current tandem. They might not be done making trades involving a goaltender as they’ve been linked to Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.

Blackwood will now get a chance at a fresh start with the rebuilding Sharks. He could get a one-year “show-me” contract with the opportunity to earn a longer-term deal based on performance. Failing that, they could ship him to a playoff contender at next year’s trade deadline.