NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 20, 2021

The Islanders hold off the Lightning for a Game 4 victory, Jaccob Slavin wins the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, plus an update on Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tied their semifinal series with the Tampa Bay Lightning at two games apiece by holding on for a 3-2 victory in Game 4 on Saturday. Second-period goals by Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal and Matt Martin gave the Islanders a 3-0 lead but the Lightning made it interesting with third-period tallies by Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson.

New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (NHL Images).

Bolts defenseman Ryan McDonagh had a glorious opportunity to send the game to overtime in the dying seconds with a spinorama backhand but Isles blueliner Ryan Pulock blocked it in the crease to preserve the victory. The series returns to Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Monday night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve heard and read some hockey fans criticizing this series as boring because both sides are playing a tight-checking defensive style. This contest, however, was anything but dull. The Islanders controlled the second period and seemed on their way to a blowout victory but the Lightning battled back in the third for a nail-biting finish.

Point remains the Lightning’s most dangerous scorer. He’s this postseason’s goal leader (12) and has scored in seven straight games.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin is this year’s winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He took just one minor penalty in 52 games this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lady Byng Trophy tends to be the NHL’s least-appreciated award for honoring the somewhat quaint notion of “gentlemanly play”. It draws derision from those who believe hockey players aren’t effective unless they’re rough and tough on the ice.

I would argue, however, that this award deserves more respect. In a sport where physicality is so prized, a player performing well at the highest level with a disciplined style that avoids costly penalties is worthy of commendation and acclaim.

Slavin is considered among the NHL’s best all-around defensemen. He has four 30-plus point seasons on his resume and regularly leads his club in ice time, blocked shots and takeaways while garnering a total of just 60 PIMs over six seasons. That’s the kind of skilled, cool-headed, big-minute rearguard every team wants on their blue line.

Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Dominique Ducharme will be isolated from his team for 14 days after testing positive for COVID-19 just hours before Game 3 on Friday. Assistant coach Luke Richardson has taken over for Ducharme, who will still consult with the players and coaching staff between games via Zoom meetings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not the first time the Canadiens have had to adjust to an absent head coach. Former bench boss Claude Julien returned to Montreal for heart surgery following Game 1 of their first-round series with the Philadelphia Flyers last August. Ducharme can return behind the bench on July 2 if the Canadiens should advance to the Stanley Cup Final.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2021

Avalanche and Hurricanes take 2-0 series leads, Bruins up 2-1 over the Capitals, Jets take Game 1 from the Oilers, the order for the 2021 Draft Lottery is revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Nathan MacKinnon’s hat trick powered the Colorado Avalanche past the St. Louis Blues 6-3 in Game 2 of their first-round series. Joonas Donskoi also scored twice for Colorado as they took a 2-0 lead in the series. Avalanche center Nazem Kadri received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk during the third period. Faulk left the game and didn’t return. Game 3 shifts to St. Louis on Friday.

Colorado Avalanche captain Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game was closer than the final score indicates as the Blues overcame a 3-0 deficit with two goals and scored again when MacKinnons made it 4-2. Kadri could face supplemental discipline given his playoff suspension history.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves for his first career postseason shutout to blank the Nashville Predators 3-0 in Game 2 of their opening-round series. Sebastian Aho scored twice and Warren Foegele also tallied for the Hurricanes, who have a 2-0 series lead to Nashville for Game 3 on Friday. Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin missed the game with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Predators’ goaltender Juuse Saros did his best to keep his club in the game with 28 saves, several of them on high-quality scoring chances. Once again, the Predators’ anemic offense was their undoing, especially on a power play that went 0-7.

The Boston Bruins took a 2-1 lead in their series by downing the Washington Capitals 3-2 in double overtime. Craig Smith netted the winner following a turnover behind the Washington net. Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall also scored for Boston while Alex Ovechkin and Nic Dowd replied for the Capitals. Game 4 goes Friday night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s taken overtime to decide every game in this series thus far. Ovechkin wasn’t pleased with the miscommunication between goalie Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz that led to Smith’s goal.

Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 32 shots to backstop the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-1 series-opening win over the Edmonton Oilers. Dominic Toninato broke a 1-1 tie with his first-ever NHL playoff goal while Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler each had a goal and an assist. Jesse Puljujarvi replied for the Oilers. Jets forwards Nikolaj Ehlers (shoulder injury) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (undisclosed) remain sidelined.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid defensive effort by the Jets as they held Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl pointless in this contest. Game 2 goes tomorrow night.

The Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 in their final game of the season. Calgary winger Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals. Flames forward Dillon Dube left the game with an upper-body injury.

HEADLINES

The full order for the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery was revealed yesterday. The Buffalo Sabres have the best odds (16.6) of winning the lottery. The Anaheim Ducks (12.1) have the second-best while the expansion Seattle Kraken (10.3) has the third-best.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the complete list by following the link above. The Arizona Coyotes are included in this list at 11th with 3.1 percent odds but they forfeited their 2021 first-round pick for violating the 2020 NHL Draft combine rules.

STLTODAY.COM: An NHL investigation showed several COVID tests initially showing several members of the Blues tested positive were in error. Several players, including goalie Jordan Binnington and winger Vladimir Tarasenko, were forced to miss the morning skate while awaiting clarification. David Perron, Jake Walman and Nathan Walker remain on the COVID protocol list from their positive tests several days ago.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Evgeni Malkin traveled with the Pittsburgh Penguins to Long Island yesterday. He missed the first two games of his club’s series against the New York Islanders with a suspected knee injury. Sidelined backup goalie Casey DeSmith remained in Pittsburgh.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Shea Weber will be in the lineup when his club faces off tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Weber missed the final eight games of the regular season with an upper-body injury.

NEW YORK POST: John Davidson is returning to his former job as president of the Columbus Blue Jackets less than two weeks after being fired as president of the Rangers.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Rangers, they hired Mike Grier as their new hockey operations advisor.

CBS SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday. He also dealt with a rib injury toward the end of the season.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said he suffered a neck injury on April 20. He won’t have to face surgery and expects to be fully recovered for next season.

ESPN.COM: Former U.S. Women’s National Team captain Meghan Duggan is joining the New Jersey Devils as their manager of player development.

TSN/WGR 550: Former NHL forward Jussi Jokinen is hanging up his skates after 21 pro seasons. He collected 563 point in 951 NHL games with the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks from 2005-06 to 2017-18.

Former NHL forward Derek Roy is retiring after 18 pro seasons. He netted 524 points in 738 games with the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers from 2003-04 to 2014-15. He spent the past five seasons playing in Europe.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wishing the best of luck to both players in their future endeavors.










NHL Playoffs: Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes Game 1

NHL Playoffs: Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes Game 1

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2018

William Nylander’s contract impasse with the Leafs continues plus the Canadiens could be willing to move a forward. Details in your NHL rumor mill.

NYLANDER CONTRACT IMPASSE

TSN: Darren Dreger reports being told there’s no progress in the contract impasse between the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent William Nylander. Both sides haven’t moved much from their opening positions, with the Leafs believed offering a six-year deal worth $6-million annually while the Nylander camp’s initial asking price was over $8-million annually.

For the Leafs, anything north of $6.5-million annually will affect contract negotiations with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who will become RFAs next summer.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites Pierre LeBrun discussing the Nylander standoff with Toronto’s TSN 1050 on Wednesday. He was asked if the Anaheim Ducks or Carolina Hurricanes might be trade options if the Leafs decide to go down that road with the 22-year-old forward.

The Ducks’ Brandon Montour and the Hurricanes’ Jaccob Slavin were mentioned by show host Gord Miller. LeBrun replied the Leafs spoke to the Hurricanes during the summer about Justin Faulk but it was a completely different situation that didn’t involve Nylander.  He doesn’t see the Hurricanes parting with Slavin.

No end in sight to William Nylander’s contract standoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo via NHL Images)

Bob McKenzie talked about the Nylander situation Wednesday evening on NBCSN, asked if it was possible the Leafs might trade the youngster. McKenzie doesn’t believe they intend to move him as he’s seen as part of their roster core. Nylander doesn’t want to take a hometown discount only to be traded in a couple of years as salary-cap pressures mount for the Leafs.

TVA SPORTS: During a recent appearance on the show Dave Morrissette live, Renaud Lavoie said he believes the Leafs might have to trade Nylander if this standoff drags on.

Lavoie claimed there was a team that told him they would be very surprised if the Nashville Predators didn’t trade one of their defensemen because they’ll eventually have to do it one way or another. He felt they might be a good trade partner for the Leafs. Louis Jean suggests Mattias Ekholm would be the obvious trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There might not be any progress in Nylander’s contract negotiations but we’re already starting to see movement in the media rumor mill as some pundits start spitballing trade possibilities.

As McKenzie reminds us, the Leafs insist they don’t want to move Nylander. Maybe that’ll change when the calendar flips to November and the Dec. 1 deadline to get him signed approaches.

If the Hurricanes pursue Nylander they’ll likely offer up Faulk instead of Slavin. However, they’re off to a strong start and are among the league’s goal-scoring leaders. If that trend continues they won’t have any need to acquire a scoring forward like Nylander.

The Ducks could be worth watching as a possible trade destination for Nylander. They’re off to a better-than-expected start but that’s largely thanks to John Gibson’s goaltending and their penalty killing. Their puck-possession numbers aren’t pretty and key forwards such as Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves, and Ondrej Kase remain sidelined. 

As for the Predators, I don’t think GM David Poile intends to break up his top-four defense. They helped the Preds reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and win their first Presidents’ Trophy last season. Granted, things can always change over the course of a long season. Poile has a reputation for making big moves that catch everyone off-guard, but I don’t think a Nylander-for-Ekholm swap is in the cards. 

CANADIENS WILLING TO TRADE A FORWARD.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has informed teams that he’s available for business in terms of possibly trading a forward. Nikita Scherbak and Tomas Plekanec have been healthy scratches while sidelined forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Jacob de la Rose will be returning soon. The Canadiens could attempt to demote one of them but would risk losing them to another club via waivers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens won’t get much back if they place one of those guys on the trade block. They’ll likely get a draft pick or a minor leaguer. 

 











Where Do the Carolina Hurricanes Go From Here?

Where Do the Carolina Hurricanes Go From Here?

The Carolina Hurricanes surprised the NHL world last week by removing Ron Francis as general manager and making him president of hockey operations. The question now is, what direction will they take under his eventual replacement?

Francis’ “promotion” follows a similar path by the Florida Panthers two years ago. They kicked long-time general manager Dale Tallon upstairs in the president of hockey ops role and placed Tom Rowe into the GM chair.

That move lasted less than a year, during which the Panthers also dumped Gerard Gallant as head coach early in the 2016-17 campaign. They went on to miss the playoffs after winning the Atlantic Division crown in 2015-16 with a franchise-record 103-point performance. At season’s end, Tallon returned as general manager while Rowe was reduced to an advisory role.

Tom Dundon, who took over as majority owner in January, will try to avoid repeating that scenario. He apparently wasn’t pleased with Francis’ conservative style of team building. With the Hurricanes poised to miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year, Dundon felt the time was right for a management shakeup.

During Francis’ nearly four-year tenure as Hurricanes GM, he cleared up some much-needed salary-cap room and restocked their prospect pool. He also added scoring winger Teuvo Teravainen via trade and drafted winger Sebastian Aho and defenseman Noah Hanifin.

Francis, however, never made a player-for-player trade. He failed to adequately address the Hurricanes’ need for scoring punch, especially at center. Last summer’s acquisitions of goaltender Scott Darling and checking forwards Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris did nothing to improve the club’s fortunes.

The Hurricanes aren’t wasting time finding a replacement for Francis.

 

Whoever they hire will be expected to make some bold moves starting this summer. Dundon will likely want significant, immediate results for next season.

Determining the fate of head coach Bill Peters could be the first decision. While Peters avoided the ax this time, the new GM could prefer hiring his own coaching staff. Dundon probably won’t stand in his way.

Turning to the Hurricanes roster, Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48.4-million invested in 12 players for 2018-19. Restricted free agents include Hanifin, forward Elias Lindholm and blueliner Trevor van Riemsdyk, while long-time Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and winger Lee Stempniak are the noteworthy unrestricted free agents.

The Hurricanes won’t have to break the bank re-signing their key free agents. Hanifin, 21, is blossoming into a solid top-four defenseman and could be in line for a significant raise. As he’s coming off an entry-level deal, the new GM could try re-signing him to a short-term bridge deal. He could also follow Francis’ lead and re-sign the youngster to a lengthy affordable long-term contract similar to those of blueliners Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.

Francis was reluctant to draw upon his blueline depth to bolster his offense, but his successor could be willing to go down that path. Hanifin, Slavin or Pesce could be dangled for an established young scorer. 

The Montreal Canadiens need defensive depth and forwards Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk were fixtures in this season’s trade-rumor mill. Perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs might part with William Nylander or Mitch Marner for someone such as Hanifin.

Another option could be free agency. If Dundon is willing to spend toward what could be an $80-million salary-cap ceiling, the Hurricanes will have plenty of dollars to bid competitively for the best UFA talent. Among their targets could be the New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, San Jose’s Evander Kane, Boston’s Rick Nash, Vegas’ James Neal or David Perron and Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny.

Having the ability to pay big bucks for the top free agents, however, doesn’t mean the Hurricanes will land any of them. It’ll take a considerable sell job to sway those veterans into joining a team struggling to emerge from nearly a decade of mediocrity. 

Goaltending will also be an issue for Francis’ successor. With Darling signed through 2020-21 at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.125-million and carrying a modified no-trade clause, shipping him out this summer could prove difficult. He’ll probably be retained for at least another season and given an opportunity to rebound from this season’s miserable effort. The 34-year-old Ward is well past his best-before date. He’ll likely be allowed to depart as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

This year’s free-agent goalie market, however, isn’t very deep, stocked with aging netminders past their prime (Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Ondrej Pavelec), veteran backups (Jonathan Bernier, Michael Hutchinson) and the once-promising Petr Mrazek. The trade market isn’t much better, with perhaps Buffalo’s Robin Lehner as the best of the bunch.

Dundon and new general manager must avoid the temptation to chase quick fixes via trades or free agency. Whatever moves they make must work for both the short and long term. They can’t fall into the trap of acquiring expensive veterans who become costly long-term busts, eating up valuable cap space and setting back their rebuilding efforts. 

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 8, 2017

Alex Ovechkin nets second straight hat trick, Panthers re-sign Michael Matheson & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin become the first NHL player in 100 years to net back-to-back hat tricks to open a season, scoring four times to lead his club to a 6-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Teammate Nate Walker also made history, becoming the first Australian to both play an NHL game and score a goal. 

Rookie defenseman Will Butcher made franchise history for the New Jersey Devils, collecting three assists to help his club defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1. The Devils got the victory despite losing veteran forwards Drew Stafford and Kyle Palmieri to lower-body injuries. Palmieri left the game following a knee-on-knee hit from Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, but it was ruled unintentional by the league and he won’t face supplemental discipline. 

Third-period goals by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs to a wild 8-5 win over the New York Rangers. Zach Hyman also scored twice for the Leafs, who led at one point 5-1 before the Rangers stormed back to tie the game in the second period. Mats Zuccarello netted four points in a losing cause for the Blueshirts. 

T.J. Brodie had a four-point night as the Calgary Flames downed the Winnipeg Jets 6-3. 

Bo Horvat scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Edmonton Oilers 3-2, holding Oilers captain Connor McDavid off the score sheet. 

John Tavares and Casey Cizikas each scored two goals to lead the New York Islanders to a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Evander Kane also scored twice for the Sabres. 

Anze Kopitar scored twice to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. 

Matt Murray turned in a 26-save shutout performance backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-0 blanking of the Nashville Predators. It was a costly win for the Pens, as defenseman Ian Cole left the game after being struck in the mouth by a Roman Josi shot. 

Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist in the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 thumping of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. 

James Neal was the offensive hero again for the Vegas Golden Knights, tallying in overtime to give the expansion team their second-straight win by nipping the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. 

Wayne Simmonds was the overtime hero as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.

Jake Allen made 38 saves as the St. Louis Blues doubled up the Dallas Stars 4-2. 

Jaccob Slavin’s shootout goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild. 

Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. 

Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad each had a goal and an assist as the Florida Panthers held on for a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the pregame anthem, Lightning forward J.T. Brown held a fist aloft in a silent protest against police brutality toward minorities and racial inequality. 

Before the game, the Panthers announced the signing of defenseman Michael Matheson to an eight-year, $39 million contract extension. The annual average value is $4.875 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Often overshadowed by teammate Aaron Ekblad, Matheson is a skilled puck-moving defenseman. I’d rank him as comparable to Carolina Hurricanes’ blueliner Jaccob Slavin, who also recently signed a lucrative contract extension. The Panthers obviously see Matheson playing a significant role on their blueline in the coming years.

Some might question why they didn’t sign him to a more affordable bridge deal. However, they’re simply following the recent trend of promising youngsters getting lucrative extensions before they’ve completed their entry-level contracts. Should Matheson develop as expected into a reliable top-pairing rearguard, this could prove to be an affordable long-term deal for the Panthers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins fourth-line forward Noel Acciari will be sidelined six weeks after fracturing his right index finger blocking a shot during the Bruins’ season-opener against Nashville on Thursday. 

SME SPORT: Former NHL center Zach Boychuk signed with the KHL’s HC Slovan Bratislava. (Stick tap to Alexander Wirdzek for the link).