NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2021

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.

TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.

Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.

SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.

CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames

SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 14, 2020

Breaking down some potential moves to watch as the 2020-21 season inches closer in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon examined five lingering issues that must be addressed before the project Jan. 13 start to the 2020-21 NHL season.

The respective salary-cap crunches facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights and New York Islanders dominated the list.

The Lightning sits just above the $81.5 million salary cap and must sign restricted free agent center Anthony Cirelli. Dixon observed some trade speculation arose earlier this fall suggesting Steven Stamkos could become a trade candidate. However, the captain’s full no-trade clause and the limited number of teams that could afford his $8.25 million annual average value pretty much rules out trading him. Winger Alex Killorn (16-team no-trade list, $4.5 million AAV) remains a possible cap casualty.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning’s recent signing of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev prompted conjecture they could have a cost-cutting deal in hand but it has yet to materialize.

They also attempted to shed salary by putting winger Tyler Johnson ($5 million AAV) on waivers in early October but couldn’t find any takers. He also has a full no-trade but reportedly submitted a list of eight or nine potential destinations to Lightning management.

Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty (NHL Images).

The Golden Knights are also just above the salary cap, prompting rumors they could be shopping a high-salaried player such as Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury won’t be traded while team owner Bill Foley recently dismissed the Pacioretty rumors.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights could move an expensive veteran. Then again, they could also trade or demote a lower-salaried depth player to become cap compliant before the start of the season.

The Islanders still haven’t signed RFA center Mathew Barzal. They will get some cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk (eye injury) and his $6 million AAV on long-term injury reserve. Dixon took note of GM Lou Lamoriello’s failed attempt at this year’s trade deadline to ship winger Andrew Ladd to Minnesota for Zach Parise. He wondered if Lamoriello might try to package Ladd with a sweetener to a rebuilding team with the cap space to take on the winger’s $5.5 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, but it could take one heckuva sweetener to convince a rebuilding team to acquire Ladd. While Dixon cited the 35-year-old winger’s experience and leadership, age and injuries have significantly affected his performance.

Dixon also noted the trade rumors swirling around Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine and the Arizona Coyotes’ attempt to trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets aren’t in any hurry to move Laine, whose agent suggested earlier this fall it might be beneficial for both sides if his client was moved to a team where he’d get first-line minutes. The winger has a year remaining on his contract and becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. That doesn’t mean GM Kevin Cheveldayoff won’t trade Laine but he’ll seek a significant return, such as perhaps a top-pairing defenseman.

Ekman-Larsson was willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. However, attempts to move him fell through before his self-imposed deadline of Oct. 9.

The Coyotes captain insisted he’s happy in Arizona and wasn’t upset by the club exploring trade options. Nevertheless, this could resurface if the Bruins or Canucks make a pitch to the Coyotes’ liking, provided he’d be willing to waive his clause before the season begins.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 2, 2020

Could the Lightning and Red Wings become trade partners? Are the Predators preparing for more moves? What’s the latest on Mikael Granlund? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Duhatschek was asked what moves the Tampa Bay Lightning could make to shed sufficient cap space to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak while staying cap compliant for 2020-21.

Could the Detroit Red Wings take Tyler Johnson off the Tampa Bay Lightning’s hands? (NHL Images)

Duhatschek suggested the Detroit Red Wings as “the obvious first landing place” to address the Lightning’s cap issues. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is the former Lightning GM and responsible for many of the contracts on their books.

In a perfect world,” Duhatschek said he’d try to move Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn to Detroit, along with a first-round pick and quality young player. He thinks the Wings would jump on that deal if the young player was Cernak but the Bolts don’t want to part with him. Whatever moves the Lightning make they won’t be taking back players in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duhatschek’s colleagues Joe Smith and Max Bultman discussed the possibility of a Lightning-Red Wings swap. They agree Johnson or Killorn to the Wings could make sense depending on what the rest of the package looks like.

As Duhatschek points out, the Wings seem a logical trade partner for the Lightning given their cap space and Yzerman’s ties to the Bolts. However, that depends on whether the Wings are among the preferred trade destinations for Johnson or Killorn.

Duhatschek also commended the Nashville Predators for a “quietly successful” offseason, creating nearly $13 million in cap space while adding affordable grit such as Luke Kunin, Nick Cousins, Brad Richardson and Mark Borowiecki. He feels they’ve done their heavy lifting and suggests they hoard their cap space to see what the club looks like on the ice and what areas of the roster still needs improvement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have been tied to unrestricted free agent Mike Hoffman. Some believe GM David Poile is playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping he’ll lower his asking price.

Poile could add Hoffman on a one-year deal for considerably less than the $5.5 million to $6.5 million the winger’s camp reportedly seeks. That would still leave sufficient cap room to make other additions over the course of the season if required.

If Poile has made his significant moves this offseason it won’t hurt to have that cap space for the coming season, especially near the trade deadline.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 27, 2020

More speculation over which Lightning player could be moved in a cost-cutting trade plus the latest on the Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen examined which players the Tampa Bay Lightning could shop in a cost-cutting move. They’re above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million after re-signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev earlier in the week, with restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak in need of new contracts.

The Lightning put winger Tyler Johnson and his $5 million salary-cap hit on waivers last month but he went unclaimed. His no-trade clause gives him some say over where he could go but there might not be a market for a 30-year-old winger with declining stats and a high cap hit for the next four years.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn could become a cost-cutting trade candidate (NHL Images).

Alex Killorn is another candidate because of his modified no-trade clause whereas other Bolts with annual average values exceeding $4 million have full no-trades. Ondrej Palat and captain Steven Stamkos have also come up in speculation but both have full no-trade protection.

Whoever the Lightning trade they won’t get back a favorable return. However, the point is to free up cap room to keep as much of their roster intact as possible.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked if Tyler Johnson was a legitimate trade target for the Anaheim Ducks. While acknowledging Johnson’s had a solid NHL career, he wonders how well the 30-year-old will perform away from a deep roster like the Lightning. Given the Ducks’ own salary-cap constraints, the Bolts would have to absorb half of Johnson’s cap hit while the Ducks made a separate cost-cutting move to balance out the $2.5 million.

Stephens also suggested moving Ryan Kesler’s contract and perhaps another cap-related asset for Johnson if the center stays on long-term injury reserve during 2020-21. However, Ducks general manager Bob Murray could prefer retaining Kesler’s contract for his own LTIR purposes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson would be a tough sell that could end up costing the Lightning more than they’d like to part with in terms of a sweetener since they can’t afford to take back salary. It’ll be a tricky bit of juggling for Lightning GM Julien BriseBois.

Perhaps BriseBois could attempt to move Johnson for a permanent LTIR contract from another club thus providing sufficient wiggle room to re-sign Cirelli and Cernak and remain cap compliant. Some readers have suggested swinging a deal with the Detroit Red Wings to acquire the contract of all-but-retired center Henrik Zetterberg and his $6.083 million cap hit.

Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is the Lightning’s former GM and BriseBois’ mentor so there could be a fit there. However, Yzerman might not be keen to take on Johnson’s contract when he’s still got Frans Nielsen on his books for two more years at $5.25 million per season.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes the Anaheim Ducks should embrace a rebuild rather than attempting to become a playoff contender in 2020-21. If David Backes ($4.5 million) ends up on LTIR it would provide the Ducks with more salary-cap wiggle room. That could allow them to take on another team’s problem contract along with some valuable pieces for their future.

Should they go the rebuild route, team captain Ryan Getzlaf could become a valuable trade chip if the 35-year-old center is willing to waive his no-movement clause to join a contender. Getzlaf is in the final season of his contract with an $8.25 million cap hit but earning only $3 million in actual salary.

O’Brien also suggested winger Rickard Rakell and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson as trade options. They’re in the late-20s and their contracts will expire at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Bob Murray is convinced his club can compete for a playoff berth this season. His opinion could change if the Ducks are wallowing near the basement again by the trade deadline.

Getzlaf, Rakell, Lindholm and Manson would all have considerable trade value if Murray opts to tear things down and stage a full rebuild. Backes on LTIR for the season might also be enticing to cap-strapped contenders looking to free up space for other moves.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 28, 2020

The latest on Frederik Andersen plus an update on the Lightning and Ducks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes a strong regular season and playoffs in 2020-21 by Frederik Andersen will make him one of the highest-paid goaltenders in next year’s unrestricted free agent market despite the possibility of a flat cap for 2021-22. He wonders if that might serve as motivation for the 31-year-old Maple Leafs netminder.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (NHL Images).

Koshan also mused about the recent trade chatter surrounding Andersen might put a chip on the goalie’s shoulder in his contract year. He feels the Leafs would be loath to lose the netminder to free agency next year for nothing. Trading him, however, wouldn’t be prudent, as Koshan doubts a tandem of Jack Campbell and Aaron Dell could carry the Leafs on a deep playoff run.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t put much stock into the Andersen trade rumors. The Leafs couldn’t afford to land a suitable replacement via this year’s free-agent market and the pickings were slim in the trade market.

Andersen could be moved by the 2021 trade deadline if the Leafs are out of playoff contention by then. However, I doubt that will be the case. If Andersen carries them on a long playoff run, they’ll do all they can to retain him. If not, he’ll hit the open market and the Leafs will look to the trade and free-agent markets for a new starter.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently examined the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current salary-cap crunch and its effect upon their efforts to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. They have $2.895 million in cap space with only 18 players under contract. They must also re-sign defenseman Erik Cernak and add another depth defenseman and forward.

The current economic climate makes Cirelli and Sergachev tempting offer-sheet targets. However, Gretz points out how rare offer sheet signings are and the difficulty in successfully signing away either player.

Gretz noted it’s tempting to wonder what the Lightning could get for Steven Stamkos after they won the Stanley Cup while he was sidelined for all but one game. However, he doesn’t expect they’ll try to move him. He listed Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat and possibly Yanni Gourde as trade candidates with Johnson the obvious after the Lightning’s efforts to move him via waivers earlier this month.

The Lightning’s current cap woes mean they’ll likely have to absorb part of Johnson’s salary or throw in a sweetener to move him. Gretz dismisses the idea of trading Cirelli or Sergachev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson has a full no-trade clause but has apparently provided an eight-team list of preferred destinations. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list. Palat and Gourde would have to agree to waive their no-trades. It’s down to Johnson and Killorn and it’s possible both could be traded to free up sufficient cap space to address the Lightning’s needs.

While an offer sheet for Cirelli or Sergachev is still possible, I don’t believe we’ll see it. If either guy was going to sign an offer sheet it would’ve happened by now. Both players could be reluctant to go that route.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Stephens was asked who he saw as potential trade targets for the Anaheim Ducks. He feels they need an affordable young forward with scoring ability but those are tough to find.

The Ducks had an interest in Kasperi Kapanen before the Toronto Maple Leafs traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stephens thinks they have a real interest in Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson but not at his full $5 million annual cap hit.

Stephens thought they might have been interested in Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen before the Canucks re-sign him. He noted Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny is on TSN’s trade-bait list but doubts the Flyers will part with him unless it’s for a player who can lead a franchise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the Ducks will look to free agency for an affordable short-term option. Possibilities include Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Anthony Duclair or Andreas Athanasiou.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 18, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – October 18, 2020

A look at the notable remaining UFAs plus the latest on the Lightning and Canucks in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

BARGAINS AVAILABLE IN UFA MARKET

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos recently examined the best remaining bargains in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market. Topping the list is winger Mike Hoffman, prompting Traikos to wonder if it might make sense for the Ottawa Senators to bring him back.

Winger Mike Hoffman remains the best available player in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Never say never, but given Hoffman’s messy departure from Ottawa over two years ago, I don’t see a reconciliation between the two sides.

Traikos also suggested the Nashville Predators would be a good destination for winter Anthony Duclair because of their need for scoring wingers. He doesn’t rule out Travis Hamonic returning to the Calgary Flames but also thinks a chance to play for his hometown Winnipeg Jets would be a perfect situation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair’s streaky scoring could prompt Predators general manager David Poile to seek a more consistent option. Hamonic could be a fit on the Jets blueline but they’re bumping against the cap ceiling.

Traikos suggested Sami Vatanen could be a perfect stopgap on the Senators blue line until youngsters such as Erik Brannstrom, Jake Sanderson and Lassi Thomson are ready. He also feels winger Corey Perry could attract interest from Stanley Cup contenders, including the Dallas Stars. Speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou could also be a fit with the Senators or the Florida Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stars bring back Perry for another season. Vatanen and Athanasiou could be very affordable short-term options for many NHL clubs right now.

LATEST ON THE LIGHTNING

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith recently examined the Tampa Bay Lightning’s efforts to clear salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agents such as Anthony Cirelli and Mikhael Sergachev. It’s clear they’ll have to package Tyler Johnson with a pick or prospect and retain part of his $5 million annual salary-cap hit if they hope to move him in a cost-cutting deal.

Smith also noted rumors of the Lightning approaching Steven Stamkos about a trade. While neither the club or the Stamkos camp is talking about it, their Lightning captain’s full no-movement clause gives him complete control over the situation. Smith cited Pierre LeBrun indicating Stamkos has decided he’s staying put until further notice.

The Lightning are reluctant to move Alex Killorn, in part because of his leadership and affordable contract. They also haven’t approached Yannie Gourde or Braydon Coburn about a trade. Smith believes Ondrej Palat is one player the Bolts would least want to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams are sitting back and playing the waiting game with the Lightning. The Bolts’ need to shed salary gives GM Julien BriseBois little leverage in the current economic conditions. He still has plenty of time to address this situation, but it looks like he’ll have to make a painful move or two and it will involve adding assets to make it happen.

UPDATE ON THE CANUCKS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston believes the Vancouver Canucks need to do some salary-cap juggling following their recent acquisition of defenseman Nate Schmidt. They have limited cap space with restricted free agents Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette in need of new contracts. He also believes they need to add an experienced defenseman and a second-line winger. One way to alleviate their cap crunch would be to place Sven Baertschi on waivers and demote him to free up $1 million.

Johnston also doubts the Canucks will find a new home for winger Loui Eriksson and his $6-million annual cap hit. He believes if that were possible it would’ve happened by now. He doesn’t expect Eriksson or Baertschi will be bought out once Virtanen signs.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report the Canucks kicked tires on UFA winger Mike Hoffman but adding him is only possible if they can carve out sufficient cap space to sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $1.998 million in cap space. Johnston expects the combined contracts for Virtanen and Gaudette will be $4 million, meaning GM Jim Benning still has some cost-cutting to do.

The Canucks could get $3.5 million in wiggle room if oft-injured winger Micheal Ferland starts the season on long-term injury reserve but that likely won’t be determined until the training-camp medicals. Eriksson’s cap hit likely means he’s not going anywhere unless the Canucks buy him out. Brandon Sutter came up in trade rumors but his 15-team no-trade list and $4.37-million cap hit makes him difficult to move.