NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 29, 2020

Sabres captain Jack Eichel grows weary of constant losing, four regular-season awards are handed out, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen are growing weary of missing the playoffs. Eichel, a five-year NHL veteran who has yet to make a post-season appearance, said he’s “fed up with the losing”. Ristolainen, a seven-year veteran, said he’s never been part of a winning culture in Buffalo. Both players, however, praised first-year coach Ralph Krueger and his staff for the improvements the club made this season despite missing the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have been mismanaged for years, and it’s taking a toll on Eichel and Ristolainen. While I don’t believe Eichel will demand a trade in this off-season, his patience probably isn’t limitless. He could decide his NHL future lies elsewhere if the Sabres fail to improve over the next couple of seasons.

Ristolainen, on the other hand, could be playing elsewhere whenever next season begins. I’ll have more on that in the Rumors section.


NHL.COM: With the regular season over, the NHL released a list of four award winners. Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is the winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s points leader (110). Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak share the Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the leading goalscorers (48 each).

Bruins goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak share the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals (174), while the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best overall record with 44 wins.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL told the NHL Players’ Association that Phase 3 of its return-to-play plan, which includes training camps, won’t begin before July 10. The league hopes to begin Phase 2, which includes small group workouts at team facilities, as early as next week.

TSN: Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s top health official, said proposals are being reviewed from sports leagues (including the NHL) to resume play, but the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering the country remains in place for now. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among 10 cities on the NHL’s shortlist of two host locations for its 24-team playoff tournament. Many NHL players are still in Europe and the United States.

Pierre LeBrun reports Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning suggested holding training camps in the United States because of Canada’s current border guidelines. Many players, such as Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and goalie Frederik Andersen, are working out in the US and won’t be in a big hurry to return to Canada and undergo a 14-day quarantine before they can resume training.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The United States deemed professional athletes and their training staff as essential workers, making it easier for players in Canada and Europe to travel into that country for training camps.

Darren Dreger reports the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating to push the June 1 deadline for signing entry-level players to July 1. There’s also a debate between the league and the PA over allowing players recently signed to entry-level contracts (such as Montreal’s Alexander Romanov) to take part in the playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To no one’s surprise, the league is against it while the PA is for it.

Bob McKenzie reports Alexis Lafreniere, considered to be the top prospect in this year’s NHL draft, is considering all his options for next season. That could include perhaps playing in Europe if the NHL, AHL, or CHL 2020-21 seasons haven’t begun by this fall.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If he does play in Europe this fall you can bet his contract will contain an out-clause enabling him to return to the NHL whenever the puck drops on the ’20-’21 season.

LeBrun reports the seven teams not eligible to participate in the 24-team playoff format can begin making trades with each other. He points out non-playoff clubs usually wait until closer to the draft to begin dealing, but if there’s a fit among those seven teams for whatever reason, they can go ahead.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more on this later today in the Rumor section.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers rookie winger Kaapo Kakko might not be able to participate in the playoff tournament. Kakko is a type-1 diabetic and has a higher-than-normal risk of contracting COVID-19. Rangers president John Davidson said they’ll listen to their medical people to determine if Kakko will be able to play.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reported collective bargaining talks between the league and the PA are expected to ramp up enough for the latter to form a negotiating committee. Ryan Miller and Ron Hainsey remain active from the 2012-13 version.

Costs for COVID-19 testing during the playoff tournament could cost as much as $3 million.

Friedman thinks there’s a decent chance the tournament could be re-seeded following the qualifying round instead of going to a bracket format.

The New Jersey Devils are believed to be considering at least four candidates for their head coaching job. Current interim coach Alain Nasreddine, along with Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens, are believed to be in the running.

The Chicago Blackhawks could be making some cuts to the professional scouting department.

TSN: Player agent Mike Liut is advising any player who’ll listen to review their disability insurance before they return to the ice.


LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights announced their new AHL affiliate will be named the Henderson Silver Knights.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators prospect center Josh Norris, 20, was selected as the AHL’s rookie of the year for 2019-20.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 8, 2020

Potential playoff formats are under consideration, plans for the 2020 Draft remain uncertain and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL/NHLPA “Return to Play” committee discussed returning with 16, 20, or 24-team playoff formats. Of the three, the 24-team format appears to be garnering some traction. That format would see non-playoff clubs like Montreal and Chicago getting postseason berths. “But again, let me stress. Nothing is decided. These are just the conversations that are being had between both sides this week,” said LeBrun.

Darren Dreger suggests a “play-in” format that trims those 24 teams down to the traditional 16 playoff clubs, rather than playing out the remainder of the regular season. This format would allow the league to get through the process quickly in case there’s a second COVID-19 wave in the fall. “If the NHL once again has to shut down in September, maybe October, maybe drift into November, there’s a built-in break, and then they reset and get going on the 2020-21 season again as late as December,” he said.

Frank Seravalli said the cost of COVID-19 testing and sterilizing dressing rooms and the rest of the facility could reach tens of millions of dollars. “So far, to this point, the NHL has determined that the juice would be worth the squeeze but we’ll see as these continue to add up,” said Seravalli.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the PA had considered resuming the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule and the playoffs. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports one reason they’re exploring other options is it would avoid bringing back teams with no chance of reaching the playoffs and having them play a month’s worth of meaningless games.

He also said it would reduce how long players would have to spend in hub cities, especially those that go deep into the postseason. Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk recently said he and his fellow players with families aren’t keen to spend up to four months separated from their families. “Nobody with kids is going to want to be away for three or four months at a time. I think that’s a lot to ask out of guys.” Dubnyk missed part of this season to be with his wife while she was dealing with a serious medical condition, so he has an additional reason not to be away from his family for a long period.

Brooks added going directly to a playoff tournament would allow for a draft lottery in which the seven clubs that don’t make the playoff cut could be eligible for the first-overall pick in this year’s draft.

While I understand the league’s desire to recoup some of its losses by completing the regular season, returning immediately with a postseason format makes the most sense. Nevertheless, we still await a final decision. With the pandemic still ongoing, cancellation of the season and playoffs remains a real possibility.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports debate continues over the format of the 2020 NHL Draft. It appeared an early-June draft was a foregone conclusion, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly said everything is still on the table.

June 5 was believed the target date, though options later in the month are also under consideration. Some NHL teams are uncomfortable with staging the draft before resuming the season, while some general managers aren’t happy over being prevented from making trades involving active players while the schedule is paused.

TSN: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he’s among the majority of GMs who prefer staging the draft after the season is completed. “I think most of the managers would like it to happen in a natural order,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston’s colleague Elliotte Friedman believes no decision this week would mean the date to stage the draft would be pushed later than the June 5-6 timeframe originally proposed by the league. The fact there hasn’t been a decision yet suggests the league may have encountered more pushback from team owners and general managers or perhaps unforeseen issues arose that require more time to address.

WINNIPEG SUN: Ted Wyman cites an Angus Reid poll indicating one-quarter of hardcore Canadian sports fans polled indicate they wouldn’t attend a sports event in October or November until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. “Another 40% said they would have to do some deliberating before making up their minds and 35% said they would attend with no reservations.” Wyman suggests this underlines the difficulty for pro sports in returning to normal following the pandemic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL revenue will likely feel the effects of this pandemic beyond 2020. That could take a toll on the salary cap for 2021-22. 


TSN: Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price reached out to give support to two boys who lost their parents during last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

THE SCORE: The New Jersey Devils interviewed Dallas Stars assistant coach John Stevens for their head-coaching job.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs center Alex Kerfoot’s family rink gives him a training advantage over his fellow players during their self-quarantine period.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell believes Brendan Leipsic’s recent offensive comments on Instagram could cost the winger his NHL career.

SPORTSNET: The Kontinental Hockey League will not name a champion after stopping its season part-way through the playoffs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 10, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 10, 2017

NY Rangers winger Rick Nash needs a strong effort in his contract year.

Latest on Rick Nash, Chris Kelly, Alex Chiasson and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NBC SPORTS: Entering the final year of his eight-year contract, New York Rangers winger Rick Nash knows this coming season is an important one for him. With the Rangers transitioning toward a younger roster, the 33-year-old Nash’s performance in 2017-18 could determine if they’ll try to retain him and how much it might cost to do so.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nash’s future with the Rangers depends upon his performance this season, While Nash isn’t the dominant winger he once was, he’s still a reliable scorer when healthy. Injuries, however, have hampered his play. After tallying 42 goals in 79 games in 2014-15, he averaged 60 games in each of the next two seasons, scoring 15 and 23 goals respectively. Another injury-shortened season could convince Rangers management to part ways with him next summer. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed free-agent forward Chris Kelly to a professional tryout offer.  

THE WASHINGTON POST: The Capitals bring free-agent winger Alex Chiasson to training camp on a tryout basis.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators have no timetable to name a new captain. Defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are considered among the leading contenders. 

NBC SPORTS: The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired former star Kevin Stevens as a special assignment scout based in Boston. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stevens struggled with drug addiction related to painkillers following surgery in 1993 to repair serious facial injuries. In May, he was fined $10,000.00 and sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a drug charge. Here’s hoping this job helps him get back on track.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2017

Capitals GM MacLellan addresses Ovechkin trade speculation.

Latest on the Capitals, Stanley Cup Final updates,coaching hires & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

THE WASHINGTON POST: In his first press conference since his club’s second-round elimination, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said Barry Trotz will return next season as head coach. However, it was MacLellan’s comments over the possibility of trading captain Alex Ovechkin that raised eyebrows.

While MacLellan said such a move wasn’t in the club’s best interest and he wasn’t stripping Ovechkin of the captaincy, he said he would “maybe” consider it if the right deal came along. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacLellan went on to stress that trading Ovechkin didn’t make sense from an organizational viewpoint and that the superstar is “a big part of this franchise, and he’ll continue to be going forward.” However, the focus of the headlines seems to be that MacLellan might one day consider trading him if a legitimate hockey trade offer came along.

Could Ovechkin be traded someday? Sure. As the old saying goes, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can. Will it happen anytime soon? No, and certainly not if team owner Ted Leonsis refuses to endorse such a move.

Besides, I think the Capitals could have a bigger issue on their hands if Ovechkin is determined to play for Russia in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. If the NHL enforces its determination not to allow players under contract participate in those Games, there’s a possibility Ovechkin could retire from the NHL in order to play for his country next winter. 

CSN MID-ATLANTIC: MacLellan also denied a recent report claiming his club was close to re-signing pending free agent right wing T.J. Oshie. He said the club remains interested in signing Oshie to a new deal but nothing is imminent. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since undergoing season-ending neck surgery on April 13. While unable to skate with his teammates in the Stanley Cup Final, he’s serving as a special player adviser for the club during its playoff run. Letang remains confident of his club’s chance of repeating as champions and also hopes to return to skating in the near future. 

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators fan who tossed a catfish onto the ice in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was charged with three misdemeanors by Pittsburgh police. Tossing a catfish onto the ice became a tradition in Nashville since 2003. To date, the Nashville police hasn’t cited anyone for the Predators pastime.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As in Detroit, if you’re going to toss dead sea creatures onto the ice, do it in your team’s home arena where the cops are more likely to turn a blind eye. 

OTTAWA SUN: Senators center Derick Brassard will under surgery on his right shoulder and will require four-to-five months of recovery. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky underwent wrist surgery and will require three months to recover.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights will have a 72-hour window (10 am ET on June 18 to 10 am ET on June 21) to determine their selections for the expansion draft. They also have a similar window for signing unprotected restricted and unrestricted free agents. 

TSN: The NHL will release the protected lists of the 30 existing franchises on June 18. 

NEWSDAY: The New York Islanders have hired Scott Gomez as an assistant coach. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. 

TWINCITIES.COM: Scott Stevens has stepped down as assistant coach of the Minnesota Wild to spend more time with his family. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 30, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 30, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel celebrates his game-winning goal against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Penguins win Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final plus updates on Olympic participation, salary cap info & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Jake Guentzel late third-period goal snapped a 3-3 tie and proved the game winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins downed the Nashville Predators 5-3 to take a 1-0 series lead in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Nick Bonino scored twice and Sidney Crosby collected two assists for the Penguins, who failed to register a shot on goal in the second period. They were largely outplayed by the Predators, who rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the third.

The Predators had a game-opening goal by P.K. Subban overturned by a controversial offside challenge in the first period, followed by playing shorthanded by two players when Jame Neal took an undisciplined cross-checking penalty during a delayed interference call on teammate Calle Jarnkrok.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The final score flattered the Penguins, who were largely outplayed for most of this game by the Predators. They’ll need a better effort in Game 2 or this series will head to Nashville tied at a game apiece.

SPORTNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave his annual state of the NHL press conference prior to the start of Game 1 of the Cup Final. Among the notable points was his adamant insistence the league will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He also raised the possibility of a league-wide policy banning players under NHL contracts from taking part in those Games.

Bettman also believes video reviews on offsides and goaltender interference are working as intended. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the salary cap for 2017-18 could be between $73 – $77 million, depending on if the NHLPA uses its five percent inflator clause. The league also announced Tampa Bay will host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There remains speculation suggesting quiet discussions exist regarding Olympic participation between the league, the NHLPA and the IIHF. However,  I believe Bettman’s serious when he says the league won’t take part in the Pyeongchang Games. I also believe a showdown is coming between the league and several players, such as Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who still wish to represent their countries in those games.

As for the salary cap, the PA has annually used its inflator clause to ensure the highest possible cap ceiling to help free agents get the best possible deals. Grumbling persists among the players regarding escrow payments so it’ll be interesting to see if they approve the use of that clause again this year. 

TSN: Erik Karlsson wasn’t the only member of the Ottawa Senators playing through injury during their recent playoff run. Cody Ceci (broken finger), Craig Anderson (back), Zack Smith (ribs), Viktor Stalberg (abdominal), Alex Burrows and Mark Borowiecki (high ankle sprains), Dion Phaneuf and Ryan Dzingel (wrist), Derick Brassard (shoulder) and Mark Stone (leg) were also hampered or sidelined. 

Senators GM Pierre Dorion revealed his intention to protect Anderson in the upcoming expansion draft. 

SPORTSNET: Former NHL player John Scott said his critical comments toward P.K. Subban in a recent documentary about the flamboyant defenseman were made over two years ago, before he met Subban at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. Scott claims he’s now friends with the blueliner and said his remarks weren’t in context with anything Subban is doing now. “He’s such a cool guy,” said Scott. “I like the guy and consider him a friend. To have that come out now is a shame.”

Russian sportswriter Slava Malamud reports SKA St. Petersburg claims Ilya Kovalchuk has changed his mind about playing in the NHL next season because he wants to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Malamud also wonders if the New Jersey Devils couldn’t find any takers for Kovalchuk. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk’s NHL rights are held by the Devils and there’s speculation they were considering a sign-and-trade scenario. Hopefully we’ll learn more about his status in the coming days. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: After receiving three years probation and a $10,000 fine for attempting to sell oxycodone, former NHL star Kevin Stevens is trying to put his life back together. He’s battled drug and alcohol addiction for years, losing his millions and his marriage along the way. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Stevens can overcome his addictions and get his life back on track. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 6, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 6, 2017

Ducks right wing Corey Perry, right, watches the puck go past Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot for the winning goal in the fifth period of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Anaheim on Friday, May 5, 2017. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Ducks push Oilers to brink of elimination, Blues force Game 6 against Predators & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Corey Perry’s double-overtime goal capped a stunning 4-3 comeback victory by the Anaheim Ducks over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5 of their second-round series. The Oilers held a 3-0 lead late in the third period, but the Ducks pulled goalie John Gibson and rallied on goals by Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler and Rickard Rakell. 

The tying goal proved controversial, as Ducks center Ryan Kesler appeared to interfere with Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, but it was allowed following video review. Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Drake Cagglula scored for the Oilers, who are now down three games to two and facing elimination as the series returns to Edmonton on Sunday. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A heartbreaking loss for the Oilers, who seemed to have this game in the bag until the Ducks pulled Gibson late in the third. I think Kesler interfered with Talbot on the game-tying goal, but he was checked into the Oilers goalie by one of his own defensemen. Not saying that excuses it, but it explains why the ruling went the way it did.

Had the Oilers played better defensively after the Ducks pulled their goalie, it wouldn’t have set the stage for that game-tying goal. Full marks to the Ducks for battling back and refusing to quit. However, when a team coughs up a three-goal lead with just over three minutes remaining in the third after the opponent has pulled the goalie, it isn’t the result of bad luck, fluky bounces or missed calls. It’s because they played poorly in their own zone. 

Jaden Schwartz’s goal early in the third period was the winner as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 to stave off elimination in their second-round series. The Predators still hold a 3-2 lead as the series returns to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) skated in a full-contract practice with his teammates on Friday. While his return for Game 5 today against the Washington Capitals isn’t guaranteed, Crosby isn’t ruling out the possibility. He also insists he’s not rushing his return. “I felt pretty good right on from the next day to now,” Crosby said. “Probably as good as you could expect.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Penguins up 3-1 in the series and poised to eliminate the Capitals, Crosby’s potential return to the lineup could be a determining factor that decides the outcome of Game 5. 

CSN MID-ATLANTIC: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin practiced on the third line on Friday in advance of tonight’s crucial game against the Penguins. Head coach Barry Trotz explained he was looking at shaking up his club’s scoring while also spreading their offensive weapons throughout the lineup. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To Ovechkin’s credit, he didn’t kick up a fuss over this obvious demotion. Whether he stays on the third line for long or the experiment actually improves the Capitals’ scoring remains to be seen. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks cautions the New York Rangers not to be overconfident entering Game 5 today in their series with the Ottawa Senators. The Rangers overcame a 2-0 series deficit with two convincing wins on home ice. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: A week after acquiring goaltending Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks, the Carolina Hurricanes announced they signed him to a four-year, $16.6-million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a big raise for Darling, who goes from an annual cap hit of just over $587K with the Blackhawks to $4.15 million annually. The 28-year-old netminder was a solid backup with the Blackhawks, posting a career record of 39-17-9 with a 2.37 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage with four shutouts.

The Hurricanes obviously believe Darling is ready to become a full-fledged NHL starter. If he pans out this will be a steal of a deal for them. This signing also means Darling will be protected in the expansion draft, leaving Cam Ward and Eddie Lack exposed. If they’re passed over by the Vegas Golden Knights, one of them could be shopped in the trade market or bought out. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Former NHL player Kevin Stevens “was sentenced Thursday in U.S District Court in Boston to three years’ probation and fined $10,000” after pleading guilty to illegally selling prescription painkillers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stevens is fortunate not to serve jail time for this. He’s had a difficult life since his playing career ended. Here’s hoping he can get back on track.