NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2020

The Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put off contract discussion, Mikael Granlund returns to the Predators, the Lightning sign Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta, the Capitals sign Conor Sheary, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: The Edmonton Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have agreed to put contract talks on the back-burner. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. There were reports in October that the two sides were making progress on a contract extension.

Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The two sides could resume negotiations at some point during the season. The flattened salary cap for the foreseeable future will affect the value of Nugent-Hopkins and his peers in next summer’s UFA market. He’s earning $6 million per season on his current contract. The longer he goes unsigned, however, the more likely his name could pop up in trade rumors.

TSN: The Nashville Predators signed winger Mikael Granlund to a one-year, $3.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m surprised by this signing because of Granlund’s offensive struggles during his previous season and a half with the Predators and reports he was seeking a long-term deal. It was rumored the Preds were interested in winger Mike Hoffman to boost their scoring punch. Both sides evidently decided it would be worthwhile to give it another go.

It’s an affordable deal for the Predators that would leave them with $9 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly) for the coming season. That will provide general manager David Poile with considerable flexibility to put toward another UFA signing or to make trades as needed over the course of the season.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning signed restricted free agent defenseman Erik Cernak to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $2.95 million. They also signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Jan Rutta to a two-year deal worth $1.3 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: These signings push the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $6.15 million with RFA center Anthony Cirelli still to be signed. The Bolts have until Jan. 13 to become cap compliant. They’re expected to make a cost-cutting trade or two but could get some flexibility if winger Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million AAV) ends up on long-term injury reserve because of a nagging hip ailment.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals signed UFA winger Conor Sheary to a one-year, $735K contract. He’s expected to skate on their third line. The signing leaves the Capitals with $2.2 million in cap space.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland announced his NHL retirement yesterday. He was one of the original Golden Knights selected in the 2017 expansion draft and the club’s unofficial leader. The 38-year-old blueliner also played with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames during his 11 NHL seasons, tallying 127 points in 671 regular-season games. He won the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2018 as the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Engelland in his future endeavors.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports former Toronto Maple Leafs center Frederik Gauthier is considering a professional tryout offer with the Arizona Coyotes. He spent parts of the last five seasons with the Leafs.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins signed UFA forward Jordan Nolan to an AHL contract earlier this month. He could have a shot at cracking the roster in training camp next month. Nolan spent six seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, winning two Stanley Cups. He also played for the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. He spent last season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings intend to name their first captain in three years. Dylan Larkin is considered the front-runner for the captaincy. The role has been vacant since former captain Henrik Zetterberg’s playing career was ended by nagging back injuries in 2018.

NHL.COM: The league and the NHLPA announced its medical protocols and critical dates for the coming season. They also revealed a change to the offside rule (stick tap to Kukla’s Korner) indicating a player’s skate will not have to be in contact with the blue line in order to be on-side.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only change to the previously reported critical dates is the last possible date for awarding the Stanley Cup was changed to July 9 from July 15, though it comes with a note indicating that date could change. The same goes for the May 11th start of the playoffs.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals are the first teams to unveil helmet ads on Tuesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ads are on the side of the helmets where the team logos used to be. They’re not garish or create an unnecessary distraction. Based on the photos provided in the link, I daresay the other NHL clubs will follow their lead.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.

The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.

Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.

Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.

If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 3, 2020

A look at the latest list of notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: updated their list of noteworthy unrestricted free agents as the calendar flipped to November. Winger Mike Hoffman, center Erik Haula, and wingers Corey Perry, Mikael Granlund, and Anthony Duclair fill out the top five.

Could Corey Perry sign with the Ottawa Senators? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been widely reported Hoffman seeks a one-year, $6 million contract and is willing to be patient to get the deal he wants. The Nashville Predators are rumored to be among his suitors.

There’s some recent speculation linking Haula to the Pittsburgh Penguins but they’ve got $80.1 million invested in 23 players. Unless they shed salary there’s no room for another UFA addition.

Perry’s been linked to the Ottawa Senators but I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns to the Dallas Stars on a one-year deal. Nothing new on Granlund and Duclair, though that doesn’t mean there’s no interest in either winger.

Defensemen Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara, winger Andreas Athanasiou, center Carl Soderberg and blueliner Travis Hamonic round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing of note regarding Vatanen, Athanasiou, Soderberg and Hamonic but Chara’s future remains a topic of interest. It was assumed the long-time Bruins captain would return for another season in Boston. However, that’s no longer a certainty as he intends to take his time before reaching a decision.

Wingers Ilya Kovalchuk, Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson fill spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk is reportedly hoping to sign with a contender and is waiting for the right offer. There was talk earlier this year that the Montreal Canadiens might try to bring him back but their offseason acquisitions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli make that unlikely.

The New York Islanders are working to bring back Martin. It’s rumored the San Jose Sharks have spoken with Sheary. Nothing new about Frolik while hip surgeries may have ended Wilson’s playing career.

Other notables on the list include Andy Greene and Karl Alzner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There speculation the Islanders could bring back Greene. Alzner, meanwhile, was recently linked to the Boston Bruins as insurance if Chara doesn’t return.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Pittsburgh Penguins

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 29, 2020

Check out the recent Canucks, Penguins, and Red Wings’ speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANUCKS

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Vancouver Canucks need a lot of help on defense. He also pointed out they’re top-heavy on offense. Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, while backup Thatcher Demko is only signed through next season.

O’Brien believes general manager Jim Benning will try to use the draft and the trade market to bolster the supporting cast around Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes. He also wondered if they’ll break the bank to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli or sign 30-year-old pending free agent blueliner Chris Tanev to a risky contract.

THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal and Thomas Drance think Tanev, Jordie Benn, and Sven Baertschi are the Canucks most likely to move on. Moving Benn and Baertschi would free up valuable salary-cap space. They also suggest Brandon Sutter could be a realistic ordinary course buyout candidate. Moving veteran winger Loui Eriksson ($6 million annual average value through 2021-22) could be difficult, while it’s uncertain if the Canucks can re-sign Toffoli.

Will the Vancouver Canucks re-sign goaltender Jacob Markstrom? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering how the Canucks struggled when Markstrom was sidelined by a knee injury, re-signing him should be their priority, followed by boosting their blueline corps. With over $63.4 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21, they’ll have around $18 million to work with if the cap remains at $81.5 million next season. There’s enough to re-sign Markstrom, but it will cut deeply into their available payroll.

A couple of cost-cutting moves will help, but finding a suitable deal under a flat cap won’t be easy. It’ll certainly make the chances of moving Eriksson more difficult, even with his actual total remaining salary dropping to $5 million after his signing bonus is paid out on July 1. A compliance buyout would help here, but there’s no certainty the league and the NHLPA will implement that measure in the off-season.

PENGUINS

TRIBLIVE.COM: Seth Rorabaugh recently examined the Pittsburgh Penguins’ free agents. He feels it wouldn’t be unreasonable for RFA goalie Matt Murray to seek a hefty contract extension comparable to Tampa Bay’s Andrej Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million AAV) or Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck ($6.16 million AAV) because he’s had better postseason success. However, it’s also not unreasonable for the Penguins to consider a more affordable option such as re-signing fellow RFA Tristan Jarry.

Rorabaugh doesn’t expect UFA winger Patrick Marleau to return to the Penguins after this season. Justin Schultz‘s difficult 2019-20 season and the emergence of rookie defenseman John Marino likely signals the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh. Rorabaugh doesn’t rule out the Pens re-signing Conor Sheary if the price is right.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins have over $68.2 million tied up in 15 players for next season. It’ll be interesting to see what the Penguins do with Murray and Jarry.

Ideally, GM Jim Rutherford would probably sign both to short-term contracts and take more time to evaluate their performances before settling on which one should be their starter. With both goalies carrying arbitration rights, that might be possible, but all concerned might prefer avoiding that route. If they have to part with one or the other, Casey DeSmith is ready and able to step into the backup position.

RED WINGS

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports acquiring a new starting goaltender is among the off-season tasks facing Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman. The Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby is the best of this summer’s UFA goalies, but St. James believes he’d be reluctant to join a rebuilding club like the Wings.

More realistic options could include the Calgary Flames’ Cam Talbot, the Boston Bruins’ Jaroslav Halak, the Dallas Stars’ Anton Khudobin, the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and the Vancouver Canucks’ Jacob Markstrom.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot and Markstrom have more recent starter experience. Halak, Khudobin, and Greiss are better backup options for clubs with a skilled starter. The Wings have plenty of salary-cap room ($46.2 million committed to 11 players) to make a substantial bid for one of them. Whether they’ll accept it, or if Yzerman intends to go the UFA route to boost his goaltending, remains to be seen.










The Notable Deals of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline

The Notable Deals of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline

New York Rangers re-sign Chris Kreider to a seven-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $6.5 million

Not a trade, but Kreider was considered the top trade bait entering deadline day. Reports out of New York this morning suggested he was likely to be moved. The Rangers bent on the term, as they reportedly offered a six-year deal. Perhaps the Kreider camp gave a little on the dollars. The 28-year-old left-winger gets the long-term deal to stay put, but time will tell if this deal pans out over the long term for the Blueshirts.

The New York Islanders acquire and sign center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).

New York Islanders acquire center Jean-Gabriel Pageau

The Islanders address a glaring need on their forward lines with Pageau, a skilled two-way player who can skate at center or on the wing. They overpaid to get him, sending a conditional first-round pick in 2020, a 2020 second-rounder, and a conditional third in 2022 to the Ottawa Senators. That was offset by re-signing Pageau to a six-year, $30-million contract extension. The rebuilding Senators got a fine return, leaving them with potentially 13 picks in the 2020 Draft, with nine of those in the first three rounds.

Carolina Hurricanes acquire Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers and Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils

The Hurricanes shored up their banged-up blueline by parting with a first-round pick for Skjei and shipping forward Janne Kuokkanen and a conditional second-round pick to the Devils for Vatanen. With Dougie Hamilton out for several more weeks with a broken leg and Brett Pesce sidelined by an upper-body injury, Skjei and Vatanen should help fill the gaps.

Florida Panthers trade Vincent Trocheck to the Carolina Hurricanes

The Panthers were rumored for weeks to be in the market for a top-four defenseman and Trocheck recently surfaced as a trade candidate. Instead, they swap him for checking-line forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark plus two prospects. Trocheck, meanwhile, should provide the Hurricanes with some welcome depth at center.

Vegas Golden Knights acquire goaltender Robin Lehner

Big pickup there for the Golden Knights, shipping Malcolm Subban, a prospect and a second-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist. Lehner will share the duties with starter Marc-Andre Fleury, providing Vegas with a solid one-two punch between the pipes.

Pittsburgh Penguins acquire forwards Patrick Marleau, Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made a significant move earlier this month by acquiring Jason Zucker from Minnesota. He wasn’t done tinkering with his forward lines, bringing in three key playoff rentals. They got Marleau for the San Jose Sharks for a conditional third-rounder and shipped center Dominik Kahun to the Buffalo Sabres for winger Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. In the twilight of his career, Marleau gets a final shot at winning the Stanley Cup. It’s Sheary’s second go-around with the Penguins, winning Cups with them in 2016 and 2017. Rodrigues had requested a trade from the Sabres earlier in the season.

Edmonton Oilers deal for winger Andreas Athanasiou

The Oilers sent Sam Gagner and two second-round picks to the Detroit Red Wings for one of the fastest players in the league in Athanasiou, prompting speculation he’ll become a new linemate for Connor McDavid. If those two mesh well together, Athanasiou will regain the 30-goal form that he’s been lacking this season. Failing that, perhaps he’ll be a better fit on their second line with either Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers also acquired winger Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators and defenseman Mke Green from the Red Wings.

Calgary Flames bring in Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort

With Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic still sidelined, the Flames sent a third-round pick in 2020 to the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustafsson and a conditional fourth in 2021 to the Los Angeles Kings for Forbort. Gustafsson is a mobile blueliner and Forbort will bring a physical edge to the Flames defense corps.

Buffalo Sabres acquire winger Wayne Simmonds

The Sabres sent a fifth-rounder in 2021 to the New Jersey Devils for Simmonds. He’ll provide leadership and experience, but won’t address their ongoing need for a scorer. At least they didn’t pay much to get him, plus the Devils picked up half of his $5-million salary-cap hit.

Boston Bruins trade winger Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie

This is a swap of two young forwards who needed a change of scenery. Ritchie was the Ducks first-round pick (10th overall) in 2014 but struggled to play up to expectations as a power forward. Heinen had a promising rookie performance (47 points) in 2017-18, but his production has eroded since then.

Colorado Avalanche land Vladislav Namestnikov

With their forward lines depleted by injuries, the Avs sent a 202 fourth-rounder to the Ottawa Senators for the versatile Namestnikov. The 27-year-old is a solid two-way forward who can skate at center or on the wing. He should fit in well on their checking lines.

Philadelphia Flyers add Derek Grant and Nate Thompson

The Flyers had an interest in Jean-Gabriel Pageau before the Senators shipped him to the Islanders. They instead went a more affordable route, sending a minor-league forward and a 2020 fourth-rounder to the Anaheim Ducks for Grant, and a 2021 fifth-rounder to the Montreal Canadiens for Nate Thompson. The two veterans will provide the Flyers with experienced depth up the middle.

Vancouver Canucks acquire Louis Domingue

With starting goalie Jacob Markstrom sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, the Canucks sent minor-league goalie Zane McIntyre to the Devils for Domingue. He’ll split the duties with Thatcher Demko and should provide some additional insurance once Markstrom returns.