Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson salutes the crowd following his team’s 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Senators force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final, a Predators primer and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Craig Anderson made 45 saves and Mike Hoffman scored the game winner as the Ottawa Senators edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.
The series returns to Pittsburgh for the seventh and deciding game on Thursday. The winner advances to face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final.
Bobby Ryan scored the game-tying goal for the Sens, while Evgeni Malkin tallied the only goal for the Penguins. Despite playing a strong game, Malkin lamented his missed scoring opportunities.
Despite the importance of this game for the Senators, the club once again failed to sell out the Canadian Tire Centre, an ongoing trend team owner Eugene Melnyk finds “disturbing.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators, and especially Anderson, rose to the challenge in this game after being blown out 7-0 in the previous contest. Regardless of the outcome of this series, this club has shown considerable character and determination.
Still, their inability to sell out their building during this playoff run is puzzling. Theories abound, from the arena’s location to the pay system problems facing government employees in the nation’s capital city to fan frustration over the team’s inconsistency in recent years. Whatever the reason, it’s a troublesome trend the club’s front office must examine and address.
THE TENNESSEAN: As the Nashville Predators prepare for their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, there’s a team primer for those of you unfamiliar with the club.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche announced yesterday that assistant coaches Tim Army, Dave Farrish and Francois Allaire won’t be returning next season. The Avs have also received permission to speak with Toronto Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas.
NBC SPORTS: Calgary Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid signed with Czech League team Liberec. Smid is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July and missed all of last season with a neck injury.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Edmonton Oilers re-signed winger Iiro Pakarinen to a one-year, US$725,000 contract. He played 14 regular-season games this season and one playoff game.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights first-ever home opener is slated for Oct. 10, though their opponent has yet to be determined.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Pioneering broadcaster Sherry Ross has been let go as the New Jersey Devils’ radio color commentator after 10 seasons. She’s the first woman to provide radio play-by-play.
Could the Edmonton Oilers ship Nail Yakupov to the Chicago Blackhawks?
Speculation links Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov to the Chicago Blackhawks plus the latest on the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning in your NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Bob McKenzie commented on speculation out of Chicago suggesting the Blackhawks could acquire Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov. While a trade is not imminent, McKenzie said that’s not to suggest the two clubs haven’t discussed it. The Blackhawks still wish to assess their young players, while the Oilers would have to pick up part of Yakupov’s $2.5 million salary for this season.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples weighs in on the rumor, noting McKenzie’s analysis and that of Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who reports the Blackhawks would “send AHL player/s to EDM, and likely ask” the Oilers to retain part of Yakupov’s salary. He also points out the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus suggesting Yakupov, who “isn’t all that good,” would be an “odd fit” for the Blackhawks. Lazerus adds it could speak to how dire things are at forward for the ‘Hawks.
Staples said the Oilers tried for many months to move Yakupov. “If another NHL team (maybe Chicago, but maybe an Anaheim or Montreal or the Rangers or Dallas even) only has to pay a mid-round pick to take Yakupov, that’s an excellent bet for them to make,” writes Staples. “You give up almost nothing. In return you get a highly, highly motivated player on a reasonable one-year deal who might crack your second line and help out your power play.”
Jim Matheson also voiced his opinion on the subject, noting the Blackhawks were mocked last January for picking up forward Richard Panik, who went on to play well for them in the playoffs against the St. Louis Blues. He suggests Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov did a good job mentoring young Russian teammate Artemi Panarin last season and could do the same for Yakupov. Matheson also points out the Blackhawks limited cap room means the Oilers must pick up part of Yakupov’s salary.
PITTSBURGH POST GAME: CBS Pittsburgh’s Dan Kingerski wonders if the Penguins, who took on a fading Justin Schultz from the Oilers last season, would be interested in Yakupov. He reports Oilers scouts have taken in several Penguins preseason games. Kingerski notes TSN’s Darren Dreger’s recent report on the winger’s declining trade value. Yakupov’s $2.5 million salary, however, would be an issue, as the Penguins have about $1 million in cap space for the upcoming season. At this point, however, Kingerski believes the chances are slim that the Penguins acquire Yakupov.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers want to move Yakupov, but to do so means shipping him to a team with the cap space willing to take on his salary or agreeing to pick up a significant portion of that salary. The latter is most likely the only workable option for cap-strapped clubs such as the Blackhawks and Penguins. The discussions between the Oilers and ‘Hawks are apparently ongoing, so this speculation probably won’t die down anytime soon.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Anaheim Ducks will have to shed salary once they re-sign restricted free agents Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell. LeBrun feels defenseman Cam Fowler ($4 million cap hit) is the likeliest to be dealt, noting a number of clubs were interested in the blueliner at this year’s NHL Draft.
TODAY’S SLAPSHOT: Speaking on TSN 1040, Bob McKenzie reports there’s some progress in the Ducks negotiations with Rakell. He also suggested Lindholm and the Ducks closed a gap in their talks, though McKenzie adds that’s not to say it’s still not considerable. He also believes they’ll have to ship out someone like Fowler to free up cap space for those two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks currently have around $7.5 million in cap space. Re-signing those two could take more than that. If they intend to re-sign the pair before the start of the season on Oct. 12, they’ll have to make that salary-dumping deal by Oct. 11 in order to be cap compliant. The Ducks placed Clayton Stoner ($3.25 million) on waivers yesterday, but it’s unlikely a rival club will pick him up. If he clears and is demoted, the Ducks will only receive $950K in cap relief. Depending on the cost of re-signing Lindholm and Rakell, it might not be enough.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports there’s been some contract discussions between Calgary Flames management and the agent for Johnny Gaudreau. McKenzie believes Gaudreau seeks a deal comparable to that of St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million per season) while the Flames prefer less than that.
Pierre LeBrun claims the Flames are among four teams with interest in unrestricted free agent defenseman (and former Flame) Kris Russell, but they’ve obviously got some salary juggling to do. That could allow one of those other clubs to come through with an offer for Russell. It’s expected Russell could be signed by next week.
McKenzie said there’s been some thought to move the contract of defenseman Ladislav Smid ($3.5 million), who’s sidelined for the season with an ongoing neck injury. However, there’s no certainty that gets done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Such a move could also cost the Flames a quality prospect or a significant draft pick.
McKenzie also reports there’s no indication of progress in contract discussions between the Tampa Bay Lightning and RFA winger Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning also have significant cap issues.
Vlaidmir Tarasenko scores the game winner as Team Russia defeats Team Finland 3-0 at the World Cup of Hockey.
World Cup of Hockey scores plus updates on Evander Kane, Joffrey Lupul & more in your NHL morning headlines.
NHL.COM: Vladimir Tarasenko, Ivan Telegin and Evgeni Malkin scored and Sergei Bobrovsky made 21 saves as Team Russia blanked Team Finland 3-0 to advance to the World Cup of Hockey semifinal, where they’ll meet Team Canada on Saturday. Russia’s victory eliminates the Finns and Team North America from further competition. Team Europe will face Team Sweden in the other semifinal matchup on Sunday.
Team USA’s attempt at a face-saving victory against Team Czech Republic fell short by a score of 4-3. Both clubs were already eliminated from advancing to the semifinal. Czech goalie Petr Mrazek made 36 saves and Milan Michalek scored twice in the Czech victory.
USA TODAY: USA coach John Tortorella wasn’t pleased at Phil Kessel’s subtle criticism on Twitter aimed at the team’s management for not selecting him to participate in the tournament. USA GM Dean Lombardi, meanwhile, defended his player selections. “If you’re talking about Justin Abdelkader, Blake Wheeler, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Kesler, David Backes, I’ll take those guys any day…Those guys have big-time heart and when I talk about caring, they’d be the nucleus of caring. They compete. They can play for me any day.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t lack of heart that hurt Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey, but lack of skill. Would they have been better with Kessel, Tyler Johnson, Justin Faulk, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Okposo? Maybe, maybe not, but if you’re going into an international tournament, it makes sense to bring your most-talented players. The Americans didn’t do that.
NBC SPORTS: New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault hopes to reduce 34-year-old goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s workload this season to ensure he’s fresh for the playoffs.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres winger Evander Kane is shrugging off his off-ice legal problems as something that happens to athletes or high-profile people like himself. Kane face misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident in a Buffalo bar in June, plus he’s launched a counter-claim against a woman who filed a civil suit claiming he sexually assaulted her last December. “For me, it’s just trying to stay out of that kind of stuff, kind of picking my spots better,” said Kane. He also said he’s maturing and focusing on the upcoming NHL season.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul will start the upcoming season on injured reserve and faces an uncertain future. Having recently failed a team medical, his playing career appears in jeopardy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some readers on this site questioned why it’s taken so long for Lupul to recover from last February’s sports-hernia surgery, insinuating the Leafs are trying to pull a fast one simply to get him off the roster and remove his $5.25 million cap hit from their books. Put away the tin foil hats, because the reality is Lupul’s long injury history is catching up with him. His body can only take so much punishment before he wears down to the point where he can no longer be an effective NHL player.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes center Dave Bolland failed his physical as expected and will begin the season on LTIR. He’s been battling a combination of injury issues.
NEWSDAY’s Arthur Staple reports New York Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski isn’t cleared to skate due to concussion symptoms.
CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Ladislav Smid will miss the upcoming season due to ongoing neck issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’ll be on LTIR, meaning the Flames can go over the salary cap by $3.5 million if necessary for this season.
NBC SPORTS: Former NHL defenseman Tomas Kaberle has officially retired as an active player. He last played in the NHL in 2012-13 and skated last season in the Czech Republic. In 15 NHL seasons, nearly 12 of those with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kaberle tallied 563 points in 984 games. He was part of the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship team in 2011.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The announcement of the name of Las Vegas’ NHL franchise has been delayed again, possibly until November.
ESPN.COM: Walter Bush, former USA Hockey president and primary founder of the Minnesota North Stars, has died at age 86. “Bush was enshrined into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980, the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, and the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2009. Awarded the Olympic Order in 2002, he managed the 1959 U.S. national team and 1964 U.S. Olympic team, serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1963.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Bush’s family and friends.