NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 2, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, the three stars of the week, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A third-period goal by Vincent Trocheck set the stage for Martin Necas’ overtime winner as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Florida Panthers 3-2. Necas also collected two assists while Alex Nedeljkovic made 44 saves for the win. The Panthers (30 points) remain in first place in the Discover Central Division, one point ahead of the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. They also played with winger Anthony Duclair as he’s sidelined at least a week with a lower-body injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes.

Ottawa Senators winger Drake Batherson scored twice to extend his franchise-record goal streak to six games in a 5-1 upset of the Calgary Flames. Matt Murray got the win with 27 saves and Senators rookie Tim Stutzle picked up two assists. The Flames (22 points) have dropped three of their last four games and remain one point behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Scotia North Division.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko made 27 saves for his first NHL shutout in a 4-0 upset of the Winnipeg Jets. Elias Pettersson and Nate Schmidt each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks, who moved to within three points of the Canadiens.

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).

Mark Stone collected five primary assists as the Vegas Golden Knights overcame a 4-2 deficit to nip the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime, snapping the Wild’s six-game win streak. Max Pacioretty scored twice, including the game-winner. Marcus Foligno tallied twice for the Wild (25 points), who remain two points back of the first-place Golden Knights in the Honda West Division.

The St. Louis Blues got two goals and an assist from Zach Sanford to hold off the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Blues sit one point behind the Golden Knights. Ducks forward Isac Lundestrom collected his first career NHL hat trick.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson kicked out 31 shots in a 3-0 shutout over the Edmonton Oilers. William Nylander and Morgan Rielly each had a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who blanked the Oilers for the second straight game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs accomplished this feat with leading goal scorer Auston Matthews and starting goalie Frederik Andersen sidelined by injuries.

The San Jose Sharks scored six unanswered goals in a 6-2 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche. Evander Kane had a goal and two assists while Timo Meier collected three helpers. The Avalanche played without defenseman Cale Makar, who returned to Denver for further evaluation regarding an upper-body injury suffered during Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

HEADLINES

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane and Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 28.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is expected to make public comments today supporting head coach John Tortorella, who’s in the final season of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella’s future has become the topic of speculation as the Jackets has dropped five straight games and seven of their last eight, leaving them seven points behind the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers claimed goaltender Alex Stalock off waivers yesterday from the Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stalock revealed he was diagnosed with the heart condition myocarditis after testing positive for COVID-19 last November. He received clearance to resume training in mid-January but was unable to regain his spot on the Wild’s goalie tandem. As he’s crossing the US-Canada border he must quarantine for two weeks before joining the Oilers.

THE PROVINCE: Former NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi was arrested for drunk driving in Michigan over the weekend.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

Recaps of Sunday’s games feature Patrick Kane and Alain Vigneault reaching career milestones plus updates on Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Gabriel Landeskog and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Patrick Kane scored his 400th career goal as the Chicago Blackhawks thumped the Detroit Red Wings 7-2. He had a three-point performance while Alex DeBrincat collected four points and Kevin Lankinen made 44 saves for the Blackhawks. They’ve won six of their last eight games and sit third in the Discover Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane tallied career goal 400 in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered how the Blackhawks would fill the leadership void when team captain Jonathan Toews was sidelined by a mysterious illness. Kane has certainly risen to the occasion. He’s also tied for second with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (34 points) in the NHL scoring race.

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault picked up career win 700 as his club blanked the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Goalie Carter Hart made 28 saves for the shutout while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault is tied with Mike Babcock for eighth on the all-time list.

The Boston Bruins got two goals from Charlie Coyle and two assists from David Pastrnak as they defeated the New York Rangers 4-1. Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev played most of the game with a scratched left eye suffered in the first period. He went to the bench for repairs and returned to the game.

A 28-save performance by Juuse Saros helped the Nashville Predators down the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1, sweeping their two-game series and handing the Jackets their fifth straight loss. Columbus coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t concerned about his job security in a post-game press conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Changes could be coming to the Jackets if they don’t snap out of this tailspin soon. They’re now six points behind the fourth-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Central.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal as the Washington Capitals edged the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 19 saves in his first game since coming off the COVID-19 protocol list. Jakub Vrana had a goal and an assist for the Caps. Devils captain Nico Hischier missed the game and is listed as day-to-day after taking a puck to the face on Saturday.

New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin made 20 saves for his second straight shutout in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were the goal scorers.

HEADLINES

THE SCORE: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel claimed he didn’t get hurt during pregame warmup before Thursday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, contradicting what coach Ralph Krueger told reporters that night. Eichel said he got hurt in New Jersey on Tuesday, which also forced him to miss Thursday’s game. Krueger said Sunday he wasn’t trying to mislead anyone with his statement on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This would be at best a minor issue for a normal team. For the floundering Sabres, however, it’s seen by their critics as yet another example of the dysfunction within the club.

TORONTO STAR: The Maple Leafs could face the Edmonton Oilers tonight without center Auston Matthews and goalies Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. They’re nursing injuries and listed as day-to-day. Michael Hutchinson will get the call if Andersen and Campbell can’t play.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog tied Peter Forsberg for the third-most goals (202) in franchise history during Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

NBC SPORTS: Florida Panthers winger Brett Connolly and Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock were placed on waivers yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m interested to see if a team in need of goalie depth plucks Stalock off the waiver wire. He had decent numbers last season but has been relegated to third-stringer behind Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen this season.

STLTODAY.COM: Jacob de la Rose became the sixth player on the St. Louis Blues to be placed on injured reserve.

TSN: Four players – Arizona’s John Hayden, Detroit’s Patrik Nemeth, the New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl – remain on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were calls from some in the media in mid-February for the NHL to pause or reduce the schedule over the growing number of players on the protocol list and the postponement of games as a result. Those numbers have significantly dropped over the last two weeks, suggesting the league’s updated protocols are working.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 17, 2020

The NHL is still pushing for a mid-January start to 2020-21, the Wild sign Andrew Hammond as Alex Stalock remains sidelined, the Blackhawks name Stan Bowman president of hockey operations, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: League commissioner Gary Bettman said the 2020-21 season could start in mid-January with a shortened schedule, a temporary divisional realignment with one of them composing all seven Canadian teams, division games only, and games in home arenas, hub cities or a combination of both.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman indicated discussions between the NHL and NHL Players Association are ongoing as they try to adjust to government regulations at every level arising from COVID-19. He reiterated that playing an entire season in a quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 playoffs isn’t feasible. However, the league could consider moving teams toward a hub if enough of them cannot hold training camps or games in their home arenas due to local restrictions.

The commissioner maintains the biggest challenge facing the league remains to ensure the health and safety of the players and the support staff while ensuring they’re not doing anything that puts local communities at risk.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports five cities are under consideration if the NHL begins the season in hub locations. “Columbus, Newark, Vegas, and Toronto/Edmonton” are potential hubs but they won’t be permanent bubbles as in the playoffs.

KUKLA’S KORNER: cites TSN’s Frank Seravalli tweeting he’s heard the NHL is considering a triple header for opening night, centered around the Tampa Bay Lightning raising its 2020 Stanley Cup banner (“vs. CHI?”), with a “big East clash (NYR/BOS?) first and marquee West matchup late (COL/STL?).” While the league remains focused on a Jan. 13 start, Seravalli said they’re not beholden to that date. “Could be a week later.”

THE SCORE: cited Seravalli reporting Bettman sought the council of Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health over the course of the pandemic. Fauci recommended the best way to start the NHL season safely was to do so in hub cities. While that’s not the preference of the teams and the players, Seravalli said that option remains on the table.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Quebec premier Francois Legault believes the Canadiens and the league can put measures in place to protect the players. The Habs are hoping to receive permission to stage training camp at its practice facility in Brossard.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m growing skeptical that the league can stage its season-opener on Jan. 13. Recent reports suggest a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA executive would have to come by the end of this week to meet the necessary timelines.

The 2020-21 season will take place. The team owners and the players want it to happen. However, it could take a little longer than expected to reach an agreement because of the work required to address the issues raised by the pandemic. Jan. 13 remains possible but I wouldn’t be surprised if the season opener gets moved into late January.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury. It’s expected promising Kaapo Kahkonen will back up starter Cam Talbot to begin the 2020-21 season. Talbot was signed in October to a three-year, $11 million contract.

The Wild also confirmed the signing of goalie Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hammond will likely start the season with their affiliate in Iowa when the AHL begins its season on Feb. 5.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks named Stan Bowman as their president of hockey operations. He’ll retain his role as general manager.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move has raised questions over whether Bowman can be his own boss. I wonder if this is a possible transition move if ownership decides at some point to make a change in the GM’s office.

CALGARY SUN: Former NHL goaltender Jason LaBarbera takes over as the Flames full-time goalie coach as the club announced the creation of a restructured goaltending department.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Hadall, the man charged with theft of hockey memorabilia from Walter Gretzky, has deep ties with the Gretzky family, as well as Hockey Hall-of-Famers Doug Gilmour and Bobby Orr. Hadall was slated for induction into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in Parry Sound, Ontario.

Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police officer June Dobson also faces fraud and breach of trust charges in connection to a stick from Wayne Gretzky’s childhood sold to a memorabilia dealer for $6,000.00. The two cases aren’t related but the Dobson case stemmed from the Hadall investigation. She was a friend of Walter Gretzky for many years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both have not been convicted of the charges and remain innocent until proven guilty. If the latter, they would’ve taken advantage of one of the kindest men in hockey.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

Updates on negotiations for the 2020-21 season, two people arrested for stealing Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, Mark Messier loses money on a cannabis investment deal, the latest on Oskar Lindblom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports issues such as roster size and taxi squads are slowing down negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13. Frank Seravalli said the effect on the salary cap of transferring a player between the roster and the taxi squad is also part of the discussion. At this point, it would be handled similar to the rules regarding a demotion to the AHL.

Pierre LeBrun points out teams are at the mercy of local health restrictions, especially in Canada. As of Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators each have over 30 players that have returned, while the Winnipeg Jets have nine, the Montreal Canadiens under 10, the Edmonton Oilers have 12 and the Calgary Flames 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those health restrictions vary from city to city and province to province. It’s affecting quarantine rules and use of training facilities, which could explain why the Jets and Canadiens have a low number of players in their respective cities.

Dreger reports the league is looking into allowing a limited number of fans to attend games in select markets depending on the restrictions of each city in each state. Seravalli points out that will be only if the league can open in all 31 of its cities. That remains in doubt as some teams, like the San Jose Sharks, are planning to open training camp in Arizona because of restrictions in their own market.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater reports sources are saying the concept of hub cities is no longer on the drawing board. He said each team will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings with travel limited only to games within a team’s division.

Because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can stage a regular season in which teams travel from city to city despite the strict protocols. The league remains adamant it will not attempt to jump the queue to obtain vaccinations ahead of others.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NH season is going to open but the projected Jan. 13 start date could change. A vote approving the format for ’20-’21 needs a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA’s 31-member executive. It’s required by the end of this week to meet the timeline for a Jan. 13 start. That date could be pushed into late January if more time is required to work out the details.

SPORTSNET: Two people were arrested by Brantford, Ontario police after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home. A three-month investigation involving searches of homes in Ontario and Alberta by police (including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police) recovered several items with an estimated combined value of over $500K USD. The investigation is ongoing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walter Gretzky is the world’s most famous hockey dad and among the kindest people in hockey. Shame on those people for stealing from him.

YAHOO SPORTS: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is suing the CEO of an Alberta cannabis company after he allegedly lost his $500K investment. Messier claimed the company also used his celebrity to raise $30 million in funding.

THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom is cancer-free just over a year after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He finished his treatments on July 2 and suited up with the Flyers in the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom enjoys a long, cancer-free life.

TSN: cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting the Minnesota Wild are close to signing free-agent goaltender Andrew Hammond. He speculates this could mean Wild backup Alex Stalock could be hurt entering training camp. Stalock reportedly hasn’t been on the ice.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Former San Jose Sharks forward Melker Karlsson has signed with Swedish club Skelleftea AIK for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if Karlsson has an out-clause if he signs with an NHL club. The report indicating it’s for the remainder of the season suggests he didn’t get any NHL offers to his liking. The flattened salary cap for this season could be a factor, which doesn’t bode well for comparable players still available in the UFA market.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have promoted Ryan Miller (no, not the NHL goaltender) as their new assistant general manager.

WHL.COM: The Western Hockey League has delayed the start of its 2020-21 season because of public health restrictions across Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The board of governors will meet in January to discuss possible start dates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the development of WHL players hoping to be selected in the 2021 NHL Draft.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 11, 2020

Check out the latest on the Maple Leafs and the Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons doesn’t believe Kyle Dubas should be fired, but feels the Maple Leafs general manager could be looking for work in a year if he hasn’t reversed the club’s fortunes by then.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas (NHL.com)

Simmons feels Dubas has to strengthen the Leafs after turning over almost half the roster last summer, weakening their depth in the process. The top of the roster wasn’t productive enough, the bottom of the roster not good enough, and the team defense was taken advantage of physically during puck battles.

Simmons called on Dubas to make bold changes via trades or free agency. He wondered if the Leafs GM will come back with goaltender Frederik Andersen next season or look for someone like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, who Dubas knows from their days with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. He also noted there are desperate teams with salary-cap issues, roster issues, disappointed owners, or those like Pittsburgh and Nashville that have somehow lost their way.

TORONTO STAR: Dave Feschuk also wondered what Dubas has in store for the Leafs. He notes that fans and pundits are calling on the Leafs GM to trade William Nylander, or Mitch Marner, or Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson. While Dubas could stubbornly stick to his plan, Feschuk suggests he needs to adjust it, pointing out the Leafs had this season’s sixth-worst goals-against per game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bloom is definitely off the Dubas rose. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to improve the Leafs this off-season.

Dubas isn’t afraid to make bold moves (signing Tavares and acquiring Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, and Cody Ceci). The problem is those decisions failed to address the Leafs’ glaring weaknesses. He must get it right this off-season or the calls for his dismissal will grow.

The Leafs GM has limited salary-cap space to work with, carrying over $76.9 million invested in 17 players. He and his capologist were able to free up sufficient cap space last summer to re-sign Marner, but they’ll have to get more creative this year to address the club’s issues. Fixing those problems could mean moving one of the Leafs’ top forwards, or one or two of their more affordable secondary scorers.

WILD

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin knows his club is a long way from being a Stanley Cup contender. “There definitely have to be changes,” he said. “We haven’t had success here. Things need to get better. That’s just the way it is.”

Guerin indicated he’ll attempt to land a true first-line center, indicating that will likely come via free agency or the draft. “Teams don’t trade No. 1 centers. They just don’t,” he said. The Wild GM also indicated he was unhappy with his goaltending this season and didn’t rule out looking outside the organization for help.

Guerin will meet with pending UFA Mikko Koivu and intends to get started on contract extension talks with players such as Kevin Fiala. Jonas Brodin, Marcus Foligno, and Joel Eriksson Ek. He also said contract buyouts are a last resort, but Mizutani speculates Victor Rask could be a buyout candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Guerin took his time evaluating his roster until midseason when he traded Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh and replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach with Dean Evason. He’ll start putting a bigger stamp on this team through the offseason.

Several good goalies are available in this summer’s UFA market, but Guerin might stick with his current netminders next season to buy time for promising Kaapo Kahkonen. The current tandem (Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock) are under contract for next season, meaning one of them will have to be moved to acquire another netminder.

There aren’t any No.1 centers available in this year’s UFA market. Guerin could draft a promising center this year but that prospect won’t address that need next season. If he can’t find help in the trade market, he could try the offer sheet route. With over $65 million invested in 17 players, that’s probably not a wise course of action.

Rask has an annual average value of $4 million through 2021-22. Mizutani pointed out a buyout will leave the Wild with over $1.33 million in dead cap space through 2023-24.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

The latest on the Sharks and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHICH UFAS WILL THE SHARKS RE-SIGN?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently examined which San Jose Sharks’ unrestricted free agents could be re-signed and those who have likely played their final games in teal.

Will the San Jose Sharks bring back Joe Thornton for one more season? (Photo via NHL Images)

He feels it would make sense to bring back Joe Thornton if the long-time Sharks center accepts a $1 million or less salary to provide the club with salary-cap flexibility. He’s leaning toward Thorton’s return but doesn’t consider it a certainty.

Kurz wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks re-signed Melker Karlsson but could also see him move on to another club. Having traded away a penalty killer in Barclay Goodrow, it might be worthwhile to re-sign Karlsson if he accepts a pay cut.

Backup goalie Aaron Dell won’t be back unless the Sharks can trade starter Martin Jones, but his contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Stefan Noesen will likely get an affordable one- or two-year deal. Unless the Sharks trade Brent Burns, Kurz expects the Sharks will part ways with Tim Heed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve singled out the more notable of the Sharks’ UFAs. I can see Thornton, Karlsson, and Noesen being re-signed if they’re willing to accept cost-effective deals.

Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. General manager Doug Wilson indicated he believes his club can make a quick turnaround from this season’s disappointing performance. To do so, he’ll need those aforementioned free agents to accept affordable one-year contracts or watch them depart via free agency.

UPDATE ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently reported the league’s proposed roster expansion to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders would allow the Minnesota Wild to use Kaapo Kahkonen in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock are the Wild’s current goalie tandem. However, coach Dean Evason isn’t ruling out the possibility of the AHL goalie of the year becoming their starter in the tournament if he plays well in training camp. “Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward,” said Evason.

Russo suggested it also makes sense for Wild general manager Bill Guerin to play Kahkonen to determine if the 23-year-old netminder is ready to become their No. 1 or No. 2 goalie next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s goaltending situation could get interesting in the off-season if Kahkonen outplays Dubnyk and Stalock in the proposed return-to-play tournament. Dubnyk has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of over $4.33 million and a 19-team trade list. Stalock has two years left at a cheap AAV of $785K. Should Kahkonen prove himself NHL-ready, Guerin could be tempted to use Dubnyk or Stalock as trade bait to address other roster needs.

Russo also reported Marcus Foligno hopes to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno’s become an effective third-line forward for the Wild. He carries a $2.875-million annual average value on his current contract. The Wild have over $39 million invested in just seven players for 2021-22, leaving plenty of space to re-sign Foligno if they choose.