NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 17, 2021

Game recaps include hat tricks by Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett, a record-setting night for Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid tallied his 10th career hat trick to lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Calgary Flames by a score of 5-2. Three of those hat tricks have come against the Flames. Leon Draisaitl collected three assists while Jesse Puljujarvi had a goal and two assists. The Oilers also welcomed back Zack Kassian from concussion protocol. The Flames set a dubious NHL record by losing 12 straight season-opening games.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

A hat trick by Sam Bennett powered the Florida Panthers to a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair also tallied for the Panthers while Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for the win.

Mike Sullivan became the all-time wins leader among Pittsburgh Penguins head coaches with 253 as his club rolled over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Chicago goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got the hook in the first period after giving up four goals on 10 shots. Drew O’Connor and Brock McGinn each had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Penguins activated Zach Aston-Reese from COVID protocol and placed winger Bryan Rust (upper body) on injured reserve.

Steven Stamkos’ overtime goal lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Washington Capitals 2-1. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring in the second period with his 733rd career goal while Mikhail Sergachev tied it in the third. The Lightning’s win was overshadowed by the departure of first-line winger Nikita Kucherov midway through the third period with an apparent lower-body injury.

Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand joined Mats Sundin and Chris Kelly as the third player in NHL history to record a team’s season-opening goal on a penalty shot in a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. He also scored the insurance goal late in the third period. Stars goalie Braden Holtby made 37 saves in a losing effort.

Chris Kreider scored in his third straight game as the New York Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1. Alexis Lafreniere picked up the game-winner by snapping a 1-1 tie in the third period. Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury. The Canadiens have dropped three straight and scored just three goals with Jonathan Drouin accounting for two of them.

St. Louis Blues winger David Perron scored twice as his club held off a late rally by the Colorado Avalanche for a 5-3 victory. The Avalanche came back from 4-1 to within a goal before Ryan O’Reilly put the game out of reach. Colorado defenseman Jack Johnson missed this contest as he was placed in COVID protocol. Before the game, the Avs honored former general manager Pierre Lacroix, who passed away in December from a COVID-related illness at age 72.

The San Jose Sharks overcame a 2-0 deficit with a shorthanded goal and two power-play markers to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. Tomas Hertl and rookie Jasper Weatherby led the way for the Sharks as they each had a goal and an assist.

A 40-save effort by Thomas Greiss carried the Detroit Red Wings over the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 3-1. Greiss made 23 saves in the third period. Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina and Sam Gagner scored for the Wings.

Frederik Andersen kicked out 38 shots as the Carolina Hurricanes held off the Nashville Predators 3-2. Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen scored in the third period to give the Hurricanes the win.

The Toronto Maple Leafs got a 20-save performance from Jack Campbell to beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1. Alex Kerfoot led the way with a goal and an assist. With Petr Mrazek sidelined for two weeks with a groin injury, the Leafs had to sign University of Toronto goalie Alex Bishop to a one-day contract as an emergency backup for Campbell due to salary-cap constraints. They’ll be able to call up Michael Hutchinson on Monday.

Cam Talbot made 29 saves as the Minnesota Wild held on for a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Wild got second-period goals from Frederick Gaudreau, Victor Rask and Ryan Hartman. Anze Kopitar got the Kings within one in the third period.

An overtime goal by Patrik Laine gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken. Branden Tanev opened the scoring for the Kraken but Eric Robinson’s goal midway through the third period set the stage for Laine’s game-winner. The Kraken played without Vince Dunn as the defenseman was listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment.

The Buffalo Sabres picked up their second-straight win by downing the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on a shootout goal by Arttu Ruotsalainen. Andrew Ladd opened the scoring for the Coyotes in the first period while Cody Eakin replied in the second for the Sabres. Earlier in the day, the Sabres placed defenseman Henri Jokiharju (lower body) on injured reserve and claimed blueliner Christian Wolanin off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

SPORTSNET: The Vegas Golden Knights got some bad news as first-line left winger Max Pacioretty could be sidelined up to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Linemate Mark Stone remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The Anaheim Ducks placed center Derek Grant and defenseman Greg Pateryn on waivers.

NHL.COM: Former Boston Bruins defenseman Leo Boivin passed away Saturday at age 89. He spent 19 seasons (1952-1970) in the NHL, starting his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Traded to the Bruins early in 1954-55, he spent nearly 12 seasons in Boston and served as their captain from 1963 to 1966. He also played for the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars, collecting 322 points in 1,150 games. A three-time All-Star, Boivin was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Boivin’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 15, 2021

The latest on Jack Eichel, the Islanders could be in the market for a defenseman this season, the Blackhawks could try to shed salary and an update on Vitali Kravtsov in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ESPN: Emily Kaplan last night reported there was “serious optimism” last Thursday that a Jack Eichel trade was imminent but things fell quiet. She said there are five teams still interested in the Buffalo Sabres center that can fit his $10 million annual average value within their salary-cap payrolls.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Maybe that means moving some contracts or whatever,” said Kaplan. She also said those teams have agreed to allow Eichel to have the disc replacement surgery he seeks.

The preferred option is he’s traded, gets the procedure done and returns to action in three-to-four months. The other, which nobody wants, is he files a grievance but he might not have a case because of the CBA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication from Kaplan as to who those five clubs might be. As per Cap Friendly, teams with lots of cap space and sufficient assets in prospects and promising young talent to acquire Eichel could include the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators. The Arizona Coyotes could also be a fit if they shed a bit of salary. Those clubs could use an established first-line center but that doesn’t mean they’re all in the hunt for Eichel.

TSN:  Pierre LeBrun believes the Ducks could be one of the destinations for Eichel, as they could make do with his absence from the lineup during his recovery. He also thinks the St. Louis Blues could be lurking though they want to be a contender this year.

The Calgary Flames did their due diligence on Eichel this summer. LeBrun also suggested the San Jose Sharks as he wondered what could happen with winger Evander Kane. If Kane ends up coming off their books they would suddenly have $7 million in cap space.

LeBrun points out pulling off an Eichel trade remains tricky based on the conditions that would be tied to his health following his surgery. His long recovery would also be another complicating factor.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $12.9 million in cap space, the Ducks are best-suited of the clubs mentioned by LeBrun to absorb his full contract. They also have depth in promising young players and prospects to draw upon for trade bait though I doubt they’ll want to part with Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and Mason McTavish.

The Blues are already in LTIR country and aren’t a fit unless they can move Vladimir Tarasenko and his $7.5 million cap hit. The Flames are pressed against the $81.5 million cap so it’ll have to be dollar-in, dollar-out to pull that off. That might mean moving Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan or Matthew Tkachuk to the Sabres or another club in a separate deal to make the dollars fit.

If Kane ends up suspended by the league as a result of one or both investigations he’s currently under it might be grounds for the Sharks to terminate his contract. I don’t see how they can trade him given his off-ice issues. Otherwise, they’re also not a fit for Eichel.

THE ATHLETIC: Earlier this week, Arthur Staple speculated the New York Islanders’ decision not to sign Erik Gustafsson suggests general manager Lou Lamoriello could prefer waiting until later in the season to invest assets in acquiring a defenseman. He believed Lamoriello looked into the status of Anaheim Ducks blueliner Hampus Lindholm, who’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. He might’ve also inquired about Nashville Predators rearguard Mattias Ekholm.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple published this before Ekholm signed his contract extension with the Predators, taking him out of this season’s trade market. He also noted the Isles have their first-round pick in next year’s draft and not much else to offer up as trade bait. However, he felt Lamoriello’s “willing to throw in for help” while the Isles might be best positioned to win the Stanley Cup this season.

DAILY FACEOFF’s Frank Seravalli took to Twitter yesterday reporting the Chicago Blackhawks are trying to move Andrew Shaw’s contract. He’s on permanent LTIR with an annual average value of $3.9 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: PuckPedia explained trading Shaw’s contract would allow the Blackhawks to become salary-cap compliant once sidelined Caleb Jones returns to action. It would also allow them to accrue cap space later in the season plus save some cash.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2021

Alex Ovechkin moves up the all-time goals leader board, new contracts for the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock and Predators’ Mattias Ekholm, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin moved into sole possession of fifth place among the NHL’s all-time goalscoring leaders as his Washington Capitals thumped the New York Rangers 5-1. Ovechkin scored twice to surpass Hall-of-Famer Marcel Dionne with 732 goals. The Capitals captain collected four points on the night, linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov had three assists and rookie Hendrix Lapierre tallied his first NHL goal.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is nine goals behind Brett Hull (741), who sits fourth overall on the all-time leader list. He could pass The Golden Brett by the end of this month.

The Edmonton Oilers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on a shootout goal by Kyle Turris. Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected two assists and Mike Smith made 36 saves. The Canucks forced the extra frame by overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period on goals by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Quinn Hughes.

Darcy Kuemper made 32 saves as the Colorado Avalanche doubled up the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Bowen Byram each had a goal and an assist for the Avs. It was a rough outing for Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as the reigning Vezina Trophy winner gave up three goals in the first period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seth Jones’ debut with the Blackhawks was not one he’ll remember with any fondness. The Avalanche dominated play when the 26-year-old Jones was on the ice in five-on-five situations.

The Toronto Maple Leafs nipped the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on William Nylander’s game-winner early in the third period. Jack Campbell picked up the win with a 31-save performance. Jonathan Drouin scored his first goal for the Canadiens since taking time away in the second half of last season to deal with anxiety and insomnia issues.

Anaheim Ducks rookie Mason McTavish tallied his first NHL goal as his club upset the Winnipeg Jets 4-1. The 18-year-old McTavish became the youngest goalscorer in Ducks history. Rickard Rakell, Adam Henrique and Kevin Shattenkirk also scored for the Ducks while John Gibson kicked out 33 shots for the win.

HEADLINES

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the New York Islanders have agreed to an eight-year contract extension with defenseman Ryan Pulock. It’s believed to be just under $50 million with a full no-trade clause in the first five years and a limited no-trade in the final three.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per JFreshHockey, the 27-year-old Pulock is “a high-end, top-pairing two-way defenseman who’s the primary puck-mover on one of the league’s best pairings.”

Pulock’s annual average value could come in at around $6.25 million, slightly higher than the $5.75 million defense partner Adam Pelech is earning on his new contract. General manager Lou Lamoriello wasted little time ensuring this underrated defense pairing is locked up to reasonable long-term contracts.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators inked defenseman Mattias Ekholm to a four-year, $25 million contract extension. The annual average value is $6.25 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ekholm gets a big raise over the $3.75 million of his current contract while the Predators get a sensible term for the 31-year-old blueliner, who wasn’t shy about publicly expressing his desire to remain in Nashville.

Some observers believe the raise is too high for a defenseman at this stage of his career but Ekholm was significantly underpaid as one of their most reliable top-four blueliners. While his performance could decline they obviously feel his experience and leadership are worth retaining while the club undergoes its’ “competitive rebuild.”

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed Colton Sceviour to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings named Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal as their alternate captains this season.

NHL.COM: Seattle Kraken forward Marcus Johansson is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

THE ATHLETIC: San Jose Sharks defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov is also out with a lower-body injury.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers claimed Charlottetown native Zack MacEwen off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.

GWINNETT PREP SPORTS: The Columbus Blue Jackets suspended defenseman Mikko Lehtonen for his failure to report to their AHL affiliate in Cleveland and placed him on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 12, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 12, 2021

The 2021-22 season opens tonight, the Lightning sign Jon Cooper to a contract extension plus the latest on Auston Matthews, Nicklas Backstrom, Evander Kane and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The puck drops on the 2021-22 season tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins face off against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning while the expansion Seattle Kraken plays their inaugural game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Kraken forwards Jared McCann, Marcus Johansson and Joonas Donskoi and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak joined teammate Calle Jarnkrok in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken will be without five of their better players for tonight’s franchise-opening matchup against the Golden Knights. The latter isn’t untouched by COVID as Mattias Janmark also entered the protocol yesterday.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of the Lightning, they signed head coach Jon Cooper to a three-year contract extension. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Cooper is making between $3.5 million and $4 million on his current deal.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville is earning a league-leading $5.5 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cooper earns that much, if not more, on his new deal.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is expected to miss the first three games of the regular season as he continues to recover from offseason wrist surgery. Teammate Ilya Mikheyev suffered a broken thumb and is expected to be sidelined for two months. The Leafs also lost forward Adam Brooks as he was plucked off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals listed center Nicklas Backstrom (hip injury) as injured non-roster yesterday. His $9.2 million cap hit continues to count against the Capitals salary-cap payroll but he doesn’t count against their 23-man roster.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is listed as non-roster pending the completion of two league investigations into allegations of spousal abuse and using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Meanwhile, 2021 first-round pick William Eklund earned himself a spot on their 23-man roster to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s off-ice issues and Tomas Hertl’s contract situation has overshadowed Eklund’s solid preseason performance. They could have a promising young star in their ranks if he adjusts well to the NHL pace this season.

THE PROVINCE: The Canucks will open the season with forwards Brock Boeser, Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte sidelined. Defenseman Travis Hamonic cleared waivers yesterday and has been loaned to their AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars placed goaltender Ben Bishop on long-term injury reserve to give themselves some salary-cap flexibility to open the season. They also listed forwards Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau as day-to-day.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers won’t have a captain this season. They instead named Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Strome and Barclay Goodrow as alternate captains.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One of them could be named captain following this season as head coach Gerard Gallant evaluates their performance and leadership. They haven’t had a captain since Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The investigation into the July 4 death of Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks continues. The preliminary report concluded his death was a tragic accident but the police turned it over to the county prosecutor’s office on July 12. No criminal charges were request and none have been filed but the prosecutor’s office referred to the matter as a “criminal case”. There’s no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings released winger Bobby Ryan from his professional tryout offer yesterday. However, general manager Steve Yzerman has left the door open for his possible return to the roster at some point.

TSN: Brian Boyle is expected to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins after playing with them during preseason on a PTO.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Hurricanes forwards Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas created a stir yesterday by golfing with pop star Harry Styles, who’s playing the PNC Center on Tuesday.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators promoted Scott Nichol to assistant general manager.

NBC SPORTS: The American Hockey League will have 10 women among their 17 new on-ice officials this season. They are referees Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Jacqueline Zee Howard, Laura White, Samantha Hiller, Elizabeth Mantha and Amanda Tasson and linespeople Kendall Hanley, Kirsten Welsh and Alexandra Clarke.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to them all. Perhaps one or more of them will one day be officiating in the NHL.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2021

Are the Buffalo Sabres finally closing in on a Jack Eichel trade? What’s the latest on Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Nick Suzuki and Morgan Rielly? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST EICHEL SPECULATION

TSN: Darren Dreger reports there could finally be some progress on the Jack Eichel front. Sources told him ongoing discussions between Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and clubs interested in acquiring the 24-year-old center have become more serious in recent days.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

Much of that is due to those teams having access to Eichel’s medical records specific to the impasse between the center and the Sabres regarding treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. Speculation suggests one of the interested clubs is a West Coast team like the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks though sources from those teams are downplaying their interest. Turning to Eastern clubs, New York Rangers sources say they’re not among them.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported in his latest “32 Thoughts” column there’s a real push to reach a solution because Eichel’s displaced disc can’t be allowed to just sit on the nerve. It’s difficult to determine if he’ll be traded first or gets surgery, returns to health and plays some games for the Sabres to regain his trade value. There’s a growing belief there are clubs willing to allow Eichel to undergo disc replacement surgery but they have to be able to make a trade first.

Appearing Monday on the Jeff Marek Show, Friedman said the Calgary Flames were among the teams that “really tried” to acquire Eichel this summer. He also indicated not once did anyone say to him that Eichel wouldn’t go to Calgary. He also didn’t think the Sabres could swing a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights because the latter didn’t want to part with promising center Peyton Krebs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The biggest sticking point could be whether those teams interested in Eichel want to acquire him first and then allow him to have the disc replacement procedure done. The other will be the Sabres’ asking price. If it remains high, teams will be reluctant to take that chance.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “32 THOUGHTS”

Regarding the investigation into whether Evander Kane used a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, Friedman isn’t sure where this is going to go. However, he isn’t under the impression that transgression could jeopardize the winger’s contract with the San Jose Sharks if proven true.

Speaking of the Sharks, Friedman feels Tomas Hertl could fetch the best return if they decide to bring in new blood.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be interesting to see how things play out for Kane if that investigation into his COVID card (or the one into allegations of spousal abuse) turns out to be true. For now, the club is reportedly planning to start the season without him while the investigations continue.

As for Hertl, his future in San Jose depends on the Sharks’ performance this season. He’s hinted at a willingness to entertain a hometown discount but he also wants to play for a winner. If the Sharks are out of contention by the March trade deadline, Hertl could be playing elsewhere by then.

Friedman predicts the Montreal Canadiens could attempt to sign center Nick Suzuki to a contract extension sooner rather than later to avoid any more offer-sheet shenanigans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That depends on whether Suzuki and his agent are willing to sign a new contract before next summer. He’ll be coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The possibility of an offer sheet would give Suzuki some leverage he otherwise wouldn’t have.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could let the season play out before making a decision on Morgan Rielly. It’s not just about how much it’ll cost to sign him but what else they need to do cap-wise if they sign him. His performance, and theirs, could determine the outcome here. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if the Leafs and Rielly play well, re-signing him is still going to force them to shed some salary. Cap Friendly shows them with $67.7 million invested in 14 players for 2022-23.

Assuming Rielly accepts a modest raise in his annual average value to $6 million to stay in Toronto, the Leafs won’t have sufficient space to re-sign fellow UFA Jack Campbell, RFA defenseman Rasmus Sandin and still fill out the rest of the roster with quality talent.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – October 6, 2021

Update on the contract impasse between the Senators and Brady Tkachuk plus the latest on Tomas Hertl, Phil Kessel and Aleksander Barkov in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TKACHUK CONTRACT IMPASSE WITH SENATORS CONTINUES

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators head coach D.J. Smith is making plans to start the upcoming season without Brady Tkachuk. The 21-year-old left winger’s contract talks with management remain at a stalemate.

Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk (NHL Images).

Garrioch cites St. Louis broadcaster Andy Strickland reporting Tkachuk wants a three-year contract but the Senators prefer a longer-term. It’s believed they tabled an eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $8 million.

Strickland said Tkachuk loves Ottawa but wants to be cautious and see how the next three seasons unfold. Garrioch said the club has nothing but respect for Tkachuk and doesn’t want these negotiations to get vindicative or personal. However, a bridge deal could adversely affect his chances of being named team captain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strickland took to Twitter yesterday reporting a lack of communication from the Senators is a big reason why a deal hasn’t been reached yet, sometimes going several days without reaching out to the winger’s camp. This runs counter to reports out of Ottawa claiming Sens general manager Pierre Dorion is in constant contact with Tkachuk’s representatives. Strickland also points out the Senators have a history of doing this to their best players under owner Eugene Melnyk.

Meanwhile, TSN’s Chris Johnston reports Senators sources said they can reach the salary-cap minimum for this season without Tkachuk under contract. They aren’t feeling pressure to become cap compliant by the league’s 5 pm ET deadline on Monday.

LATEST ON HERTL, KESSEL AND BARKOV

TSN: Pierre LeBrun considers Tomas Hertl an early name to watch for on this season’s trade-bait board. The 27-year-old San Jose Sharks center is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. LeBrun believes the Sharks would’ve loved to extend Hertl’s contract this summer but he wasn’t ready to enter that type of conversation. He could be in play by the trade deadline if the Sharks are out of playoff contention by then and he remains unsigned.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hertl also recently hinted at a willingness to accept a hometown discount but winning also remains a priority. The Sharks’ performance this season could determine his future in San Jose.

Darren Dreger believes the Arizona Coyotes’ Phil Kessel will also be on this season’s trade-bait list. He’s a UFA next summer and doesn’t appear to fit into the rebuilding Coyotes’ plans. The 34-year-old winger wants a fresh start with a competitive team, if not a contending club. He’s got a big cap hit and some no-trade protection. However, the actual salary is only $1 million. He could be a fit elsewhere later in the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel earns $6 million in actual salary but $5 million of it was as a signing bonus which the Coyotes already paid. He could draw interest by the trade deadline from playoff contenders looking for scoring depth.

LeBrun believes Aleksander Barkov will be staying with the Florida Panthers for the rest of his career. There’s been a lot of talks between the 26-year-old center and the Panthers about a long-term contract extension. He doubts Barkov will hit next summer’s free-agent market, suggesting a deal could be struck within the next several weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers are a rising force in the Eastern Conference. Barkov plays a critical role as their captain, first-line center and top two-way forward. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t get a long-term extension done.