NHL Rumor Mill – August 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 4, 2020

Has Henrik Lundqvist played his final game with the Rangers? What’s the latest Devils’ speculation? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NEW YORK POST: During his analysis of the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their qualifying-round series, Larry Brooks wondered if goaltender Henrik Lundqvist played his final game for the Blueshirts. The long-time Rangers starter has appeared in 129 consecutive playoff games.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (Photo via NHL Images).

With the Rangers facing elimination today, Brooks speculates Igor Shesterkin could get the start if healthy or backup Alexandar Georgiev could get the call.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist didn’t play badly in Game 2, but he wasn’t as sharp as in Game 1. As a team, the Rangers have struggled against the Hurricanes’ smothering forecheck. Head coach David Quinn could opt for Shesterkin or Georgiev as part of a lineup shake-up for today’s crucial Game 3. 

Lundqvist has one year remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.5 million. He also carries a full no-movement clause. Since Shesterkin joined the lineup there’s been growing speculation the Rangers could ask him to waive his clause. Their other option is buying out his contract.

The Rangers need to free up the cap room to re-sign or replace Georgiev, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Ryan Strome. They’re slated to become restricted free agents with arbitration rights at the end of the season. Trading or buying out Lundqvist could be the only solution.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked about the possibility of the New Jersey Devils moving defenseman P.K. Subban in the off-season. He doesn’t expect that will happen, suggesting Subban’s trade value is lower than it was a year ago when the Devils acquired him. His contract also runs through 2021-22 and carries an annual cap hit of $9 million. He doubts the Devils will give up on the blueliner after one bad season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s play declined over the past two seasons. Combine that with his cap hit and the Devils won’t find many takers unless they agree to pick up half of his AAV, and even then, they’ll probably have to add a sweetener.

Asked if Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn would be a fit with the Devils, Masisak believes he’d be a good trade target, provided the Devils aren’t on his 16-team no-trade list. He also likes the fact Killorn has three years remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn would be a terrific addition among the Devils’ top-six forwards. The Lightning could shop him to free up cap space to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. The sticking point, of course, is his modified no-trade, but if the Devils are on his list of preferred destinations, they should definitely explore that option.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

​​A growing number of NHL stars are speaking out against racial justice, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray talks about his club’s future in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE NHL STARS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE

TSN: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban pledged $50,000 to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna’s GoFundMe page.

“Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same: no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen, change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part.”

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 13: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins poses for his official headshot for the 2019-2020 season on September 13, 2019 at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Patrice Bergeron

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pledged $25,000 to the Boston branch of the NAACP and $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.

 “Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Jason Zucker, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber and teammate Brendan Gallagher, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and winger Tom Wilson, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson joined a growing list of NHL stars issuing statements speaking out against racial injustice.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas believes his club can and should do more to combat systemic racism.

“I think what we’ve learned, especially in the last number of days, is that with the Maple Leafs and with our players and with our staff … we need to be doing more on the anti-racism side of things. Not only with our statements and our words and our tweets and what we put out there but with our actions, and we know that people will be watching us and holding us accountable in that regard.”

ESPN.COM: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes described his experiences as a black player in a predominantly white sport.

“The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor,” Weekes said. “And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.”

Weekes called upon the NHL to implement harsher punishments for racially motivated incidents or slurs and to evaluate its relationship with local police departments.

For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players, to do hyperscreening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We’ll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell notes the growing number of NHL players speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and racism toward black people have galvanized the sport. He wonders if this will bring about necessary change within hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL stars adding their voices against racial injustice, bigotry, and intolerance. However, they must back up their comments by actively working against racism within the sport and in society

Subban and Bergeron accompanied their words with deeds. Hopefully, other players will follow their example.

I’m not doubting the players’ sincerity, but if they don’t back up their comments with positive action, their words will ring hollow.

LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported an NHL source said the league hasn’t yet whittled down its list of 10 potential hub cities down to two for its return-to-play tournament. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago are believed in the running. The league could narrow down that list and finding suitable locations within the next two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent protests against racial injustice in many US cities could affect the league’s decision. The potential Canadian locations depend upon whether the Canadian government eases its current COVID-19 border restrictions or deems NHL employees as essential works.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the NHL won’t begin Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan until all 31 teams can safely and legally reopen their training facilities. There are also complications involving foreign-born players being allowed to return to their Canadian NHL cities because of the country’s border restrictions. July 10 is the earliest date training camps could open, with the 24-team tournament beginning in late July or early August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 allows the players to return to their respective NHL cities to engage in voluntary small-group training in their practice facilities. The league is believed to be aiming for mid-June to formally introduce that phase.

SPORTSNET: Ontario premier Doug Ford said the NHL told him it would use private labs to process COVID-19 tests of players and staff should the league resume plan this summer. Toronto is among the teams on the proposed list of hub cities for the return-to-play tournament.

DUCKS GM EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT NEXT SEASON

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Elliott Teaford reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray voiced his displeasure over his club’s poor performance this season. He expects improvement and more accountability from his players in 2020-21.

Murray singled out his core players. “No excuses,” he said. “All of our core guys have to pick up their games.” He also intends to meet next week with head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff in person if possible.

The Ducks GM spoke about his club’s free agents. We’ve talked to them all,” Murray said. “In some cases, we have the hammer. In some cases, they have the hammer. There’s not going to be a lot of money out there (because of the coronavirus pause in play). The (salary) cap could be flat for a couple of years. Revenues could be tight.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks were a mess last season. Teaford cited their anemic offense, underachieving special teams, and inconsistent play.

Part of it had to do with their rebuilding roster, as several promising youngsters failed to play up to expectations. Some of it was Eakin readjusting to the NHL game after coaching in the minors. Some of it was core players like Rickard Rakell failing to step up. Murray can demand accountability but it remains to be seen if the Ducks can elevate their play.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2020

A plan to resume the season could be coming soon, the latest on this year’s draft, P.K. Subban believes he’s still among the top defensemen, Ales Hemsky retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST ON THE NHL’S PLANS FOR THE SEASON AND THE DRAFT

TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports a source claims the NHL and NHL Players’ Association could have a plan in place next week to determine what the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule will look like. Several issues must be worked out with the Canadian and American governments regarding travel, work vias, and self-quarantining. Decisions must also be reached determining the four hub cities and the type of playoff format. An NHL Board of Governors meeting is set tor Monday, which could shed more light on this plan.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars owner Tom Gaglardi believes “there’s a very high likelihood” the NHL will stage its postseason at some point this summer. “I expect we will play the season. I think we’re down to logistics, said Gaglardi. “I keep saying it, people that talk to me are tired of hearing it, but it really comes down to being able to test, effectively test on a timely basis. If we can test, I think the season is going to happen.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving also hinted this week that a decision on a return-to-play schedule could be coming soon. Whenever it does, we’ll get more details on how those other issues will be addressed. The host cities will be decided by local and state/provincial officials. Toronto mayor John Tory cautioned pro sports (even without fans) might not return to his city until this fall. That would take Toronto out of the running as a host city. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch scolds some NHL general managers for their resistance toward staging the 2020 Draft in June before the presumption of this season. The proposed draft lottery format based on points percentage, the risk of the draft lottery winner going on to win the Stanley Cup, the inability to trade established NHL players, and the possibility of non-contending Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens being able to participate in an expanded playoff format are among their concerns.

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch believes those general managers are missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on the lack of live sports for big programming ratings by holding the draft in June.

I disagree.

As The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson observed, the NFL got big ratings last month for its draft because more sports fans follow US college football than follow junior, college, and European hockey, which is where NHL prospects come from.

The possibility of a blockbuster trade involving established NHL stars generates as much excitement during the draft as the coverage of the opening round. Without those trades, many fans will probably tune out following the first round. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

NJ.COM: Despite a lousy performance this season, New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban still believes he’s among the NHL best defensemen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s play has declined since 2017-18, prompting some to suggest that his best seasons are behind him, as well as stoking criticism that he’s putting more focus on his interests outside hockey. The 31-year-old’s confidence in his abilities remains unshakable, but he’ll need a strong performance next season to silence his doubters. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Patrik Laine and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck are among the NHL stars taking part in an upcoming Fortnite tournament for charity. Others include Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot, Toronto’s Mitch Marner, and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is regularly checking in with his teammates on their mental health. 

SPORTSNET: The minimum wage class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has been settled for $30 million. It brings to an end a six-year standoff with former players over whether “WHL, OHL, and QMJHL players are “employees” or “student-athletes.” 

TSN: The Washington Capitals extended its affiliation with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former NHL winger Ales Hemsky announced his retirement. He spent nearly 11 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, followed by stops with the Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, and Montreal Canadiens, amassing 174 goals and 572 points in 845 NHL games. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A slick playmaker, Hemsky’s best seasons were with the Oilers, which included two 70-plus point performances. He probably would’ve had more if not for injuries. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors. 










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2020

An Avalanche player tests positive for COVID-19, plus the latest on Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST: A Colorado Avalanche player has tested positive for COVID-19. He’s been in isolation and has recovered. The club has not released his name. The Avs were in a coronavirus “hot spot” in San Jose between March 7 and 8, during which they played the Sharks the night after the Ottawa Senators also played there. Two Senators tested positive for COVID-19. The Avs also played the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 9. The Kings share that venue with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, who had two players test positive for the virus.

TSN: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin indicated they wouldn’t mind if the 2020 playoffs began right away if the NHL resumes this season. New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban would be in favor of a 31-team playoff tournament. His club is 13 points out of a playoff spot.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (Photo via NHL Images).

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno cautioned against agreeing to a schedule where the 2020-21 season begins soon after completion of the current one. “We’ve got to think about the health and safety of our star players,” Foligno said. “That’s a lot of games in one [calendar] year that we’re not used to. “I’m not saying guys won’t grind out a way to do it, because us hockey players will find a way. But you’ve got to think about the longevity of guys’ careers and their health as well.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand why players on teams currently not in playoff contention favoring a tournament that provides their clubs with some sort of relevant finish to this season. Otherwise, as Subban pointed out, they’d be working out to stay in shape simply to play some meaningless games if the league resumes the remainder of the current schedule.

Foligno makes a great point about looking after the health and safety of the players. Staging the two seasons close together without much recovery time in between will put the players at a greater risk to suffers injuries.

SPORTSNET: Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews donated $100K to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund.

BANGOR DAILY NEWS: Detroit Red Wings goaltender (and former UMaine goalie) Jimmy Howard hopes to play one more NHL season. He acknowledged he’d have to transition to a backup role, but feels he could be a good mentor to a young netminder. Howard acknowledged that will depend on whether any other general managers feel the same way. Howard is eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL is considering several options regarding its recently postponed 2020 Draft. One is staging the full draft at a later date in Montreal, though that appears a long shot. Another is holding a smaller scale draft similar to that which followed the season-killing 2004-05 lockout. A third is staging a virtual draft involving all the NHL teams’ front offices. The latter seems the likeliest option, with the Canadiens hosting a full draft in 2021 or 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The full draft won’t be held. It’ll either be a stripped-down one or the virtual draft.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2020

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask ponders retirement at the end of his current contract, plus a look at several potential compliance buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD RASK RETIRE AT THE END OF HIS CONTRACT?

THE SCORE: Brandon Maron reports Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask isn’t ruling out retirement at the end of his current contract. In an interview with the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter, Rask hinted at hanging up his pads when his contract expires in 2021. “I have one year left in the contract, so we’ll see if I even play,” Rask said. “We’ll see. Always a possibility.”

Could Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask retire next year? (Photo via NHL Images)

The 33-year-old netminder ruled out returning to play in his native Finland, citing family reasons. “Just be home. The wear and tear of the travel with two, almost three kids now, makes you think. I love to do it. But it’s tough.” Maron indicates Rask leads the league in goals-against average (2.12) and sits second with a .929 save percentage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While that report will likely cause the collective hearts of Bruins fans to skip a beat, Rask isn’t saying for certain that he’s packing it in after next season. It could just be some early posturing on his part to perhaps encourage Bruins management to open contract extension talks following the end of this season, whenever that might be.

Nevertheless, it’s an indication that Rask re-signing with Boston isn’t a sure thing. If he does retire, the Bruins will be scrambling to find a suitable replacement next year.

POSSIBLE COMPLIANCE BUYOUT CANDIDATES

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently examined which players could receive compliance buyouts if the NHL implements that policy to help cap-strapped club shed salary next season. He cited Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke floating that possibility in a recent interview with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now: “I’ve heard discussion of compliance buyouts to help teams get to this new cap, to solve some of their problems. Which they gave in the last CBA, each team got two cap-compliance buyouts which were exempt from the cap. I’ve heard talk of that, said Burke.

Staples considers “Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielson…Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders, Milan Lucic of the Flames, Kyle Okposo of the Sabres, and Loui Eriksson of Vancouver” as the most obvious possibilities among NHL forwards.

Defensemen could include New Jersey’s P.K. Subban and St. Louis’ Justin Faulk, while Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (provided his injury status would allow it) are his likely goalie candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting compilation from Staples. I agree with his assessment of those most likely to receive compliance (amnesty) buyouts.

For now, of course, there’s no certainty the NHL and NHL Players Association will implement that buyout scheme. Much will depend upon whether the league can finish this season and how much of their lost revenue they can recoup.

The two sides could also agree to an artificial cap that could be higher than the current $81.5 million. That would eliminate the need for such buyouts.