The latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche yesterday avoided arbitration with J.T. Compher. The two sides agreed to a four-year, $14-million contract. The annual average value is $3.5 million.
Colorado Avalanche re-sign J.T. Compher to a four-year contract (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Compher, 24, has developed into a reliable, versatile forward for the Avalanche. Last season, he became the first player since Joe Sakic to scored three shorthanded goals, three power-play goals, and three game-winners in the same season.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Police consider the death of Greg Johnson a likely suicide. The former NHL player died at his Michigan home last week at age 48. A gun and a single bullet was found near his body. Johnson suffered multiple concussions during his career but his wife said he displayed no signs of depression or other symptoms related to CTE.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is an extra measure of tragedy to Johnson’s passing. My condolences to his family, friends, and former teammates.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights granted the wish of teenage cancer survivor Doron Coldwell by making him a Golden Knight for a day. He received a team jersey and goaltending gear, received pointers from Marc-Andre Fleury, and skated with the players at the team’s practice facility.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Speaking of the Golden Knights, forward Ryan Reaves is getting into the brewing business. He received approval for a brewery license from the city council.
NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers signed forward Chris Stewart to a professional tryout offer. A 10-year NHL veteran, Stewart spent last season playing for the Nottingham Panthers of the English Elite Ice Hockey League.
Some fallout from the Penguins trading Phil Kessel to the Coyotes, Ryan Spooner, and Valeri Nichushkin to be bought out, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: cites reports indicating Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Phil Kessel disagree over the latter’s trade demands. After shipping Kessel last night to the Arizona Coyotes, Rutherford claimed the winger asked to be traded several times. Kessel claims Rutherford is mistaken, adding Rutherford met with him once and told him he would never be a Penguin again.
Phil Kessel disagrees with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford over his trade requests (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of who said what, the fact remains Kessel is now with the Coyotes and the Penguins got a decent return and freed up some valuable salary-cap space.
VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks yesterday placed forward Ryan Spooner on unconditional waivers to buy out his contract. “By buying Spooner out, the Canucks reduce his cap hit to $1.033 million for each of the next two seasons. The Rangers, who had retained 22.5 percent of his salary when they traded him to the Oilers, will have their cap hit reduced to $300,000.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the Canucks are freeing up salary-cap room to make a significant signing when the unrestricted free agent market opens at noon ET tomorrow. It’s assumed they’re pursuing a defenseman like Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner.
SPORTSDAY: The Dallas Stars placed winger Valeri Nichushkin on unconditional waivers to buy out his contract. The move “allows the Stars to clear $2.25 million in cap space next season while adding $450,000 against the cap in 2020-21.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The once-promising Nichushkin was never the same after suffering a knee injury in his sophomore season in 2014-15. This move will be seen as freeing up cap room to either re-sign pending UFA winger Mats Zuccarello or pursue Joe Pavelski in the free-agent market.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs hired former Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol as an assistant coach. They also re-signed defenseman Martin Marincin to a one-year, $700K contract.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames re-signed forward Alan Quine to a one-year, two-way deal worth $735K at the NHL level.
George McPhee confirmed the Golden Knights are close to re-signing UFA defenseman Deryk Engelland and are working out performance bonuses. #VegasBorn
Game recaps, Canucks trade Sam Gagner back to the Oilers, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers blew a four-goal lead but Travis Konecny’s overtime goal (his second goal of the games) gave them a 6-5 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Nolan Patrick had a three-point effort for the Flyers while Wings forward Anthony Mantha scored twice, including the game-tying goal. With 61 points, the Flyers are seven points out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Calgary Flames held off the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 to snap a four-game losing skid. Derek Ryan collected three assists for the Flames while Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each had three-point performances for the Penguins. With the loss, the Pens (67 points) fall one point out of the final wild-card spot in the East.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored the game-winner as the St. Louis Blues won their ninth straight by blanking the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 (Photo via NHL Images)
Jake Allen’s 32-save shutout carried the St. Louis Blues to their ninth straight victory as they defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-0. Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko tallied a goal and set up another to extend his points streak to 11 games. The Blues (65 points) sit third in the Central Division.
Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper kicked out 22 shots to blank the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0. Alex Galchenyuk and Josh Archibald were the goal scorers. The win moved the Coyotes (57 points) three points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Ryan Dzingel’s overtime goal gave the Ottawa Senators a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Tyler Myers scored twice for the Jets while defenseman Dustin Byfuglien missed the game with an unspecified injury.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had a 20-save shutout and Nikita Kucherov scored the winner in a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Kucherov (94 points) extended his lead in the scoring race to seven over Chicago’s Patrick Kane.
The New York Islanders (76 points) widened their lead in the Metropolitan Division to five points by beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. Robin Lehner made 34 saves for the Islanders, who’ve now matched last season’s wins total (35). The Oilers also reacquired center Sam Gagner by shipping Ryan Spooner to the Vancouver Canucks and placed defenseman Matt Benning (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both teams are swapping players they had little use for. Gagner returns to the team where he began his NHL career and had his best seasons. He’s spent the bulk of 2018-19 buried in the minors and is signed through next season with a $3.25 million annual average value. Spooner ($3.1 million) was skating in the minors for the Oilers, who hope Gagner can step into a regular roster spot on the right wing and provide a boost to their power play.
Petr Mrazek’s 33-save shutout carried the Carolina Hurricanes (68 points) to a 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars and over the Penguins into the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Stars (63 points) have now dropped four of their last five games and hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin reached his 300th career point by scoring twice and setting up another in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Ryan Murray collected three assists for the Jackets while Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (2 points) extended his points streak to 17 games. The loss keeps the Blackhawks three points out of a wild-card spot.
Max Pacioretty scored twice as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Nashville Predators 5-1, handing the latter their fourth loss in their last five contests.
Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Timo Meier each had a goal and an assist as the San Jose Sharks edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. Erik Karlsson returned to action for the Sharks and picked up an assist. The Canucks (59 points) remain one back of the Minnesota Wild for the last wild-card berth in the West. With Jake Virtanen going on injured reserve, the Canucks will give Ryan Spooner an opportunity.
Charlie McAvoy netted the game-winner as the Boston Bruins doubled up the Los Angeles Kings 4-2. The Bruins (76 points) move one point up on the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division.
The Oilers’ re-signing Mikko Koskinen could see Cam Talbot hit the trade block, plus updates on the Maple Leafs and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CHANGES COMING FOR THE OILERS?
EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson believes the Oilers re-signing goaltender Mikko Koskinen leaves fellow netminder Cam Talbot’s future in limbo. Talbot’s performance slipped following a stellar 2016-17 campaign leading to the Oilers signing Koskinen last summer. If the Oilers fall out of playoff contention leading up to the Feb. 25 trade deadline, Matheson believes they’ll shop Talbot, who has a 10-team trade list. Possible destinations include
Goalie Cam Talbot’s days appear numbered with the Edmonton Oilers (Photo via NHL Images).
Talbot is an unrestricted free agent this summer and there could be openings in Florida, New Jersey, St. Louis, Columbus, and Ottawa. His potential departure will mean the Oilers will have to pursue a backup via trade or free agency. Pittsburgh Penguins’ Tristan Jarry could become a trade target while Brian Elliott and Cam Ward could be available in the UFA market.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Appearing on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 yesterday, Elliotte Freidman speculated over what other moves Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli might have up his sleeve. Besides re-signing Koskinen yesterday, Chiarelli also placed forwards Ty Rattie and Ryan Spooner on waivers.
Friedman wondered if Chiarelli is trying to clear some salary-cap room to make a move. Rattie’s entire salary ($800K) won’t count against the Oilers’ cap if he heads to the minors, while they would save $1.05 million if Spooner ($4 million) is demoted.
Friedman said he’d heard some rumors they might be interested in Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky but “somebody threw cold water on that to me today.” He also doesn’t see them parting with young assets for a rental player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ moves yesterday stoked criticism of general manager Peter Chiarelli and calls for his firing by unhappy fans. However, re-signing Koskinen to a three-year deal and placing Rattie and Spooner on waivers suggests he’s not in danger of losing his job…yet. That could change if the Oilers collapse in the standings in the coming weeks.
Talbot’s days are numbered now in Edmonton. The Koskinen contract indicates he won’t be re-signed this summer. Chiarelli could see if there’s a market for him before the trade deadline and call up veteran backup Al Montoya from the Oilers’ AHL affiliate.
I agree with Friedman that the Rattie and Spooner moves could indicate Chiarelli is trying to free up cap space to perhaps acquire a player, one who is either signed through next season or a potential restricted free agent this summer. Burakovsky would fit that profile but reports out of Washington claim the Capitals aren’t ready to give up on him.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
TSN: Darren Dreger said he doesn’t believe the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent losses are increasing the sense of urgency for general manager Kyle Dubas to make a trade. Citing the William Nylander signing, he pointed out Dubas is a patient GM.
Noting the calls for the Leafs to add a right-side defenseman, Dreger pointed out the market for a top blueliner is very expensive right now. While St. Louis Blues rearguards Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko surfaced in trade speculation earlier this season, the Blues’ recent improvement suggests they might want to add, not subtract.
Last week, Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie said the Leafs’ 2019 first-round pick could be in play. He also suggested a young forward like Kaspari Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson would have to be part of the deal for a good defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs aren’t in danger of falling out of a playoff spot, though that could change in the coming weeks if the losses keep mounting. Still, Dubas has time to examine the market and try to find the right fit. With the All-Star break coming up, he could use that period for some face-to-face discussions with some rival GMs.
UPDATES ON THE RED WINGS
DETROIT NEWS: Gregg Krupa recently reported Red Wings captain Niklas Kronwall would feel duty bound to listen if GM Ken Holland approached him about a trade. The 38-year-old has a modified no-trade clause, giving him some control. He expressed his surprise about a couple of recent reports suggesting the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in him.
Krupa’s colleague Ted Kulfan reported on defenseman Nick Jensen’s improvement this season following a shaky training camp and being scratched from the season opener. The 28-year-old is slated to become an unrestricted free agent and could be moved by the Feb. 25 trade deadline. With Kronwall likely to retire at season’s end, Kulfan feels Jensen would be a low-cost, dependable option for the Wings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kronwall has hinted this season could be his last and his preference to retire as a Red Wing. Still, if a rival club made a reasonable pitch, Holland could ask him to waive his no-trade. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kronwall finishes this season in Detroit. Jensen has surfaced as a possible trade option but Holland could consider him worth retaining on a reasonable contract.
Game recaps, analysis of the Oilers trading Ryan Strome to the Rangers for Ryan Spooner, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Ben Bishop made 23 saves and Jason Dickinson scored in overtime as the Dallas Stars shut out the Boston Bruins 1-0. The Bruins also got bad news regarding captain Zdeno Chara, who’s sidelined four-to-six weeks with an injured left knee. John Moore also missed the game (day-to-day)with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara joins fellow Bruins blueliners Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller, Urho Vaakanainen and Brandon Carlo on injured reserve.
Ryan O’Reilly’s two goals powered the St. Louis Blues to a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights (Photo via NHL Images)
Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and Jake Allen kicked out 32 shots as the St. Louis Blues downed the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1. Brayden Schenn returned from injury to score for the Blues.
Morgan Rielly’s overtime goal gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, completing a sweep of the Pacific Division’s California teams.
The Buffalo Sabres picked up their fourth straight win by edging the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on shootout goals by Jason Pominville and Conor Sheary.
Los Angeles Kings rookie goalie Calvin Petersen made 34 saves to pick up his first NHL victory backstopping his club to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Ilya Kovalchuk and Anze Kopitar scored the only goals in the shootout
Nicklas Backstrom’s overtime goal gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers yesterday traded forward Ryan Strome to the New York Rangers for center Ryan Spooner. The Rangers also retained 22.5 percent ($900k) of Spooner’s $4 million annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is basically two teams hoping to benefit from swapping two underperforming players. It’s unlikely this deal will significantly improve either club. This move also won’t do much to inspire the sagging confidence of Oilers fans in general manager Peter Chiarelli. Check out this tweet by Adam Gretz offering a brief review of Chiarelli’s notable recent trades.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a broken foot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Adjusting to the absence of their starting goalie will be a big test for the Lightning, who’ll turn to backup Louis Domingue and call-up Eddie Pasquale to hold the fort.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes’ defense corps suffered a double whammy as Jason Demers suffered a season-ending knee injury while recently returned blueliner Jakob Chychrun is sidelined again with an upper-body injury. They also learned forward Josh Archibald received a two-game suspension from the league for an illegal check to the head of Nashville Predators forward Ryan Hartman on Thursday.
NBC SPORTS: Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott will miss two weeks with a lower-body injury. They’ve called up Alex Lyon from their AHL affiliate.
NHL.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen was fined $1,000.00 by the league for a dangerous trip on Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller.
TSN: Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis is out indefinitely with an injured foot.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: A look at how a collection of apparently fake Twitter accounts started a troll campaign to support the Ottawa Senators after a video shot by an Uber driver show several Senators players mocking a member of their coaching staff was published by the Citizen and the Ottawa Sun.
Latest on the Rangers and Maple Leafs in your NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE RANGERS BE BUSY IN THE TRADE MARKET THIS SEASON?
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz speculates the New York Rangers could once again be active in the trade market. Citing their ongoing rebuild and the possibility they could miss the playoffs again, he feels it’s possible the major roster shakeup will continue this season. He suggests winger Mats Zuccarello, center Kevin Hayes and forwards Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov could be players worth watching this season.
Could the New York Rangers shop Mats Zuccarello this season? (Photo via NHL Images)
Zuccarello and Hayes are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. Spooner and Namestnikov are both under two-year deals each worth $4 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After Hayes and the Rangers agreed to a one-year contract this summer, his departure by next July seems a certainty. GM Jeff Gorton appears reluctant to make a long-term investment in Hayes.
Zuccarello turns 31 next month and while he’s averaged 49-or-more points in each of the last five seasons he probably doesn’t have a lengthy future with the Rangers. Both could be useful trade chips for the Blueshirts before the trade deadline.
Spooner and Namestnikov may be considered stopgap players but strong performances on their part could make them worth retaining.
HOW WILL THE LEAFS ADDRESS THEIR DEFENSE?
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle believes the Toronto Maple Leafs may have kicked tires on possible trade or free-agent options to improve their defense. However, he feels they may well end up sticking with what they currently have, including perhaps promoting from their AHL farm club. Given their weakness at right defense, however, Mirtle doesn’t rule out the possibility of Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas swinging a deal before the February trade deadline to address this issue.
Mirtle also reported goaltender Calvin Pickard could be the starter for the Leafs’ AHL farm team this season. However, he is being offered around the league by the Leafs. Pickard played for the Toronto Marlies during their 2018 Calder Cup championship run.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The defense options are slim in the free-agent market while the asking price for a top-four right-side defenseman is likely one of the Leafs’ promising young forwards. Given their scoring punch and the wealth of youthful talent on the roster, Dubas can afford to be patient here. He’ll assess his blueline through training camp, preseason and perhaps during the season.
If there’s no notable improvement on right D, Dubas will have to address it by the deadline. They simply cannot go into the playoffs with a blueline corps playing like they did a year ago and expect a lengthy playoff run.
As for Pickard, I can see teams in need of goaltending depth keeping an eye on him. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s dealt before the start of the regular season.