The Avalanche point streak reaches 19 games, Jeff Skinner scores four goals against the Canadiens and Sidney Crosby reaches a multi-point milestone. Details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche’s points streak reached 19 games (17-0-2) after blanking the Dallas Stars 4-0. Darcy Kuemper turned in a 23-save shutout, Gabriel Landeskog scored twice and Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist in his return to action after being sidelined since late January by a concussion and broken nose. With 72 points, the Avalanche opened a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for first place in the overall standings. The Stars (52 points) remain three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner (NHL Images).
Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner scored four goals and collected an assist to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Teammate Alex Tuch picked up three assists. The Habs have lost 10 in a row. Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot missed this game and was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and is expected to miss one week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A one-week absence isn’t likely to dampen interest in Chiarot in the trade market or hurt his value. It could perhaps hasten the Canadiens’ efforts to find a suitable trade partner for the pending free-agent defenseman.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had two assists as his club doubled up the New Jersey Devils 4-2. It was Crosby’s 409th career multi-point game, moving him into 11th on the all-time list. Bryan Rust, Brian Boyle and Mike Matheson each had a goal and an assist. With the win, the Penguins move into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 68 points.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg kicked out 33 shots to upset the Washington Capitals 4-1. Brady Tkachuk and Connor Brown each had a goal and an assist for the Senators. The Capitals have lost five straight home games and hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 61 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have struggled of late with goaltending being one of the issues behind their slump. That’s sparked speculation over whether they’ll pursue an upgrade like Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury before the March 21 trade deadline.
Senators forward Austin Watson missed this game and will miss his club’s next contest after receiving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Boston Bruins defenseman Jack Achan on Saturday.
Check out the latest on Evander Kane, Alex Edler, Patrick Maroon and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka examined possible ways an NHL player could “throw” a game. San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane is facing allegations from his estranged wife that he conspired with bookies to fix games.
San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane (NHL Images).
Taking unnecessary penalties, a reduction in ice time and a lack of offense are three ways a skater could throw a game. While Kane took 28 penalty minutes in his first 13 games last season, he drew only 14 in his final 43 games. He was also the Sharks’ highest-scoring player and led all their forwards in ice time, playing in all situations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pashelka interviewed a former NHL player about the allegations. He doubted a skater could throw a game because there are too many variables involved, adding the only player capable of doing so would be the goaltender.
The league is investigating the allegations leveled at Kane which it intends to complete before training camp opens next month.
THE PROVINCE: Steve Ewen reported former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler said he received a contract offer from the club but didn’t get into the details. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He admitted the past season played a part in his decision to move on. “For me and the team, I don’t think anyone was happy with last year,” he said. “I think it was just a weird year. I didn’t have as much fun as I’ve had before playing hockey.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ewen reminded us that the Canucks lost several key players last fall to free agency, the club struggled through a COVID-19 outbreak and they struggled in the standings, failing to make the playoffs.
THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Patrick Maroon believes his club can win a third straight Stanley Cup next season. “It depends on our health, how guys are feeling, our attitude,” he said. “But we’ve been texting together as a group and thinking, we’ve brought our top two lines back, our big four on D, the best goalie in the world.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Salary-cap constraints have chipped away at the Lightning’s depth this summer. They lost Yanni Gourde to the Seattle Kraken to the expansion draft, Tyler Johnson to Chicago in a cost-cutting trade, and David Savard, Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, Luke Schenn and Curtis McElhinney to free agency. They brought in cost-effective veterans such as Corey Perry, Zach Bogosian, Brian Elliott and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to plug the gaps. Nevertheless, they’re going to have to rebuild their third line from within while relying more heavily on their top players.
Still, it would be folly to dismiss the Lightning as a serious Cup contender this season. Led by their core of forwards Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, defensemen Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, they’re in a very good position to become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups since the 1981-82 New York Islanders.
SPORTSNET: Anders Nilsson announced his retirement due to post-concussion symptoms and neck problems. He spent seven seasons with the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. In 161 games played, he had a record of 59 wins, 74 losses and 15 overtime losses, with a 3.06 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and six shutouts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Nilsson in his future endeavors. Here’s hoping his health eventually improves.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers signed goaltender Stuart Skinner to a two-year, two-way contract worth $750K per season at the NHL level.
Shea Weber faces career-threatening injuries, Jeff Skinner waives NMC for the expansion draft, Patrik Laine ties his struggles this season to John Tortorella, and the latest on Gabriel Landeskog, Steven Stamkos, Brandon Carlo and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Various injuries threaten to end Shea Weber’s playing career. The Canadiens captain could miss all of next season, if not more. He’s been hampered by foot, ankle, knee and thumb injuries in recent years. As a result, the Habs might not protect the 35-year-old defenseman in the upcoming expansion draft.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the left ankle and foot injuries are what could derail Weber’s career. He’s been dealing with those issues since 2018. His medical history creates a legitimate case for him to go on long-term injury reserve if he cannot play again. The league will make that determination and the process, which also involves Weber, his agent, the Canadiens and the NHLPA, is underway.
Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a devastating blow for Weber and the Canadiens. Despite his age, he’s been their unquestioned leader and the linchpin of their blueline. He’s played through injuries that would sideline most players but that wear and tear could be catching up with him.
Weber has five years remaining on his contract. He could retire if his ankle/foot injuries prevent him from playing again, but that would result in a huge salary-cap recapture penalty for his former club, the Nashville Predators. They matched the offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. Placing him on permanent LTIR would enable the Predators to avoid that penalty while also providing the Canadiens with over $7.8 million in annual cap relief if needed.
For now, it appears Weber could miss all of next season, including the playoffs. That will push the Canadiens into the trade or free-agent market for a replacement, though finding someone of Weber’s caliber will be a daunting challenge.
Weber’s status makes it unlikely the Seattle Kraken will select him if he’s left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft.
Speaking of the Canadiens, they signed assistant coach Luke Richardson to a three-year contract extension.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner has agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft. It’s extremely unlikely the Kraken will select Skinner, who’s carrying a $9 million annual salary-cap hit over the next six seasons. The move will instead enable the Sabres to protect another player in the draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per expansion draft rules, players with NMCs must be protected unless they agree to waive the clause. The deadline to ask players to waive those clauses was two days ago. Players asked to do so must reach a decision by Friday.
Speaking of players and no-movement clauses, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle was not asked to waive theirs for the expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pointless to do so when you know the answer is, “Oh hell, no!” Or words to that effect.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine told a Finnish media outlet he laid part of the blame for his disappointing performance this season at the feet of former Jackets coach John Tortorella. Laine said Tortorella didn’t allow him the freedom to be creative offensively because of the coach’s desire for everyone to play a two-way game.
Laine said he understood the need for a tight system and he does what coaches tell him to do. However, he also believes they should give players the opportunity to use their strengths. “I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and do things my way. Everyone should be given the opportunity to be themselves.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what weight Laine’s comments have in his contract negotiations with Jackets’ management. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
The report also noted Laine made a disrespectful comment toward Brad Larsen (then an assistant coach) during a game this season, leading to Tortorella benching the winger. Larsen is now the Jackets’ head coach but the article cited sources saying the incident was quickly resolved with no lingering issues between the two.
THE ATHLETIC: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is unhappy he doesn’t have a new contract yet with the club. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. “I can’t help but be honest with you that I’m a little bit disappointed that it’s gotten this far and it’s had to come to this point,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talks are reportedly ongoing between the two sides but they’re not yet close to a deal. Salary cap constraints are an issue here. The Avalanche must also re-sign Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar and Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed defenseman Brandon Carlo to a six-year, $24.6 million contract. The annual average value is $4.1 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable contract for the 24-year-old Carlo, who’s coming off a two-year deal worth $2.85 million annually. The only concern here is his injury history. He played in just 27 games this season. When healthy, however, he’s an effective shutdown defenseman.
Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller announced his retirement after seven NHL seasons, citing health issues after battling injuries the past two seasons. He played 352 games for the Bruins, tallying 72 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Miller in his future endeavors.
TSN: It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could lose two Zachs to free agency on July 28. The Leafs remain far apart in contract talks with winger Zach Hyman while all indications suggest defenseman Zach Bogosian will head to the open market.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $2.2 million.
THE SCORE: Lightning winger Pat Maroon admitted he was the one who accidentally damaged the bowl of the Stanley Cup during the club’s victory celebration in Tampa on Monday. He was attempting to lift the Cup and slipped on the wet stage and fell backward. It was raining at the time of the incident.
Check out the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, John Vogl was asked if Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula intend to sell the franchise. He said the club isn’t for sale but that hasn’t stop prospective buyers from calling. He doesn’t think the Pegulas have any plans to sell.
Could Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel get traded this summer? (NHL Images)
Asked about Jack Eichel’s contract, Vogl said the captain’s no-movement clause kicks in with the 2022-23 season. That would limit where the Sabres could trade Eichel if things reached the point where he had to be moved.
Asked if Eichel’s played his final game with the Sabres, Vogl guesses no. The clock isn’t ticking this summer on trading their captain. They can take this summer if they wish to weigh offers, see what happens with Eichel and the team next season, and decide his fate after that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if some clubs make inquiries this summer about Eichel’s availability and the asking price. Perhaps one of them will make a pitch too good to pass up. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume it’s a certainty Eichel will be traded unless the Sabres captain wants out.
Vogl believes the Sabres will do everything they can to re-sign Linus Ullmark. The 27-year-old goaltender is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Doing so could cost $5 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whether they re-sign Ullmark or look elsewhere for a starter they better find a reliable backup. Carter Hutton is a UFA and won’t be back. Dustin Tokarski is signed through next season at $725 and has looked ok in an emergency call-up role but can they depend on him over a full season? Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, is in their system but might not be NHL-ready yet.
Vogl doubts there’s a viable way for the Sabres to shed the expensive contracts of Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo. No club except the Seattle Kraken can afford Skinner’s long-term cap space. Buying out Okposo wouldn’t make sense until 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s signed through 2026-27 with a $9 million annual average value and a full no-movement clause. Okposo’s got two more seasons left at $6 million annually and a 15-team no-trade list.
I don’t see the Kraken having any interest in Skinner even if he agreed to waive his NMC and I doubt they’ll take Okposo off the Sabres’ hands unless there’s a significant sweetener involved.
Maybe the Sabres can get creative by working out a three-way trade where they absorb half of Skinner’s or Okposo’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. However, that would still leave some significant dead cap space on the Sabres books for a long time, especially where Skinner’s contract is concerned.
The Sabres could use a skilled tough guy similar to Washington’s Tom Wilson or the Tkachuk brothers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames might be willing to entertain offers for Matthew Tkachuk if they decide to make significant changes to their underachieving roster.
Matthew, however, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer and I believe he’ll be only a year away from UFA eligibility. Any team interested in acquiring him this summer will want to know if he’d be interested in a contract extension. Otherwise, you risk losing him for nothing in two years’ time if he’s unwilling to accept more than a one-year contract next summer.
The Sabres could use a good right-winger. That would allow Victor Olofsson to move to his natural left side.
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.
Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.
A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation (NHL Images).
Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.
Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.
An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.
Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.