NHL Player Tracking: Trending Up, Trending Down – Week 2
Recaps of the first games of the season, the Golden Knights and Red Wings name their new captains, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Morgan Rielly scored in overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Montreal Canadiens 5-4. William Nylander scored twice and collected an assist while John Tavares had a goal and two assists. Josh Anderson scored twice for the Canadiens and teammate Jonathan Drouin had three assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A close, fast-paced contest between these long-time rivals. Some observers credit Wayne Simmonds’ fight with Ben Chiarot as the turning point when the Leafs were down 3-1 in the second period, but it was penalties by Anderson and Nick Suzuki leading to two Toronto goals that changed the course of the game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning unveiled their 2019-20 Stanley Cup championship banner before thumping the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos led the way with a goal and two assists. The Blackhawks played without defenseman Brent Seabrook, who missed training camp with a back injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos showed no lingering effects from the surgery he underwent in the offseason to address the core muscle injury that sidelined him for all but one game in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Joel Farabee scored and collected three assists to lead the Philadelphia Flyers over the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. Michael Raffl snapped a 3-3 tie with the game-winner in the third period. Flyers forward Nolan Patrick scored in his first game since missing last season to migraines. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby tallied his first goal of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers exploited the Penguins’ sloppy defensive play throughout this game, especially in the third period.
Two third-period goals by Brock Boeser helped the Vancouver Canucks down the Edmonton Oilers 5-3. Braden Holtby made 28 saves in his Canucks’ debut as he and his teammates successfully killed four Oilers power-play opportunities.
St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist scored two goals and Robert Thomas collected two assists as their club rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues played without offseason acquisition Mike Hoffman as he missed the game due to a work visa issue. They also placed winger Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery) on long-term injury reserve.
THE SCORE: The NHL revealed 22 players on 16 different clubs were unavailable for the start of the season due to COVID-19 protocols. They include Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets center Mikko Koivu, Oilers winger James Neal, Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, Canucks forward J.T. Miller and Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 in December. He said he’s feeling fine and has fully recovered from the coronavirus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A reminder that no one is immune from COVID-19. We’re bound to see more instances of positive tests over the course of this season. The best the league can do is take the necessary steps to limit exposure and spread of the coronavirus.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights announced winger Mark Stone was named their first captain in franchise history.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings named center Dylan Larkin as their 37th captain in franchise history and the first since Henrik Zetterberg retired in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a foregone conclusion Larkin would get the Wings’ captaincy but the Golden Knights played coy about naming their first full-time captain. Fine choices by both clubs.
TSN: The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Craig Anderson to a one-year, $700K contract and placed him on waivers yesterday for the purpose of placing him on their taxi squad if he clears.
CBC SPORTS: The Jets signed forward Trevor Lewis to a one-year, $750K contract.
CBS SPORTS: The Florida Panthers signed Kevin Connauton to a one-year, two-way deal and placed him on waivers yesterday. He’ll join their taxi squad if he clears.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Carolina and CBJ (among other teams) remain two potential landing spots for Mikael Granlund. #Preds also interested in both him and Hoffman but have much better chance of landing Hoffman than they do Granlund. #Canes #CBJ
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) December 1, 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.
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.