NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 17, 2021

98 percent of NHL players expected to be vaccinated for the coming season, Sidney Crosby hopes Alex Ovechkin breaks Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, plus the latest on Evander Kane, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly estimates 98 percent of players will be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the 2021-22 season opens on Oct. 12. That will leave between 10 and 15 players unvaccinated among 700 players on 32 teams.

The NHL and NHL Players Association didn’t impose a vaccine mandate on players, but restrictions (including restrictions at the Canada – US border requiring lengthy quarantine) contributed to the high number of vaccinations. Teams can also suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities as part of its protocols.

Fully vaccinated players will have any positive COVID-19 tests treated as hockey injuries and continue to be paid. Unvaccinated players will have their movements restricted during road trips. Regular COVID testing will remain in place for vaccinated players. Coaches and staff must be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Daly confirmed that teams who suspend players without pay under the terms of the league’s COVID protocols will receive salary-cap relief from that player’s daily salary-cap hit.

Unvaccinated players can be ruled exempt from suspension if they have legitimate medical reasons for avoiding vaccination or if it conflicts with “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Johnston also reported at least one Caucks remains unvaccinated but the team declined to comment citing medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL isn’t fooling around with its protocols this season after a number of game postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks over the course of last season led to a series of scheduling changes. It took a physical toll on the players as they endured multiple games within a much more compressed period of time.

Unvaccinated players will have a more difficult time navigating through those strict protocols this season. Those restrictions could encourage the remainder who lack medical exemption to get vaccinated. The risk of suspension without pay for a positive test is too great over the course of the season.

SPORTSNET: Daly indicated the salary cap for the 2022-23 season is expected to increase by $1 million to $82.5 million.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

  NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has the support of a long-time rival in his quest to break Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said he told Ovechkin he hopes he does it. “It would be awesome. He’s in range, “ said Crosby. “He can score anywhere from insider the blue line.”

Crosby added one caveat. “I just hope that all his goals that he gets are against the other teams as he’s trying to add toward it.” Gretzky has 894 goals while Ovechkin sits at 730 to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin’s legacy is secure as this generation’s greatest goal scorer and one of the all-time greats. Most of Gretzky’s records are out of reach of today’s players, so the opportunity for the Capitals superstar to break the goal record would be a phenomenal achievement.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Evander Kane remains confident that the league will clear him of allegations by his estranged wife that he gambled on NHL games. In an interview with ESPN’s Linda Cohn, the San Jose Sharks winger called the allegations “incredibly false”, claiming he’s never bet on any NHL games or intentionally altered the way he plays.

The NHL opened an investigation into the allegations in July. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he anticipates it will wrap up soon and to have a full report by the start of training camp.

Kane admitted he has a gambling addiction which led to his filing for bankruptcy in July. He also downplayed reports claiming some of his Sharks teammates don’t want him back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz believes it’s what’s Kane didn’t say during the interview that’s newsworthy. “This was a missed opportunity for him to signal to his teammates/organization that he’s ready to come back, change his ways, and be a solid teammate. Instead, nothing’s changed.”

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price took to the ice yesterday in full equipment with a member of the team’s training staff. It’s believed the first time he’s skated since undergoing knee surgery in July. He spent 10 minutes on the ice doing stretching and skating drills.

TORONTO STAR: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban is an executive producer on an upcoming docuseries entitled, “Black Life: A Canadian History.”

THE ATHLETIC: Andrew Ladd is looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NHL again. He was traded this summer to the Arizona Coyotes by the New York Islanders. He played just 30 NHL games over the past three seasons with the Islanders.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will face off in the 2022 Heritage Classic on March 13 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario.

THE SCORE: Two suspects were arrested in the robbery of a St. Louis Blues prospect and a woman on the grounds of the Gateway Arch. The name of the prospect has not been released.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 10, 2021

Check out the latest on Jack Eichel, Brady Tkachuk, Elias Pettersson, Phil Kessel and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent roundup of notable hockey news, Elliotte Friedman reports the Buffalo Sabres had an “introductory meeting” with Jack Eichel’s new representatives. Thus far, however, no indication of any resolution in the 24-year-old center’s impasse with the team. Friedman believes the club revisited discussions with interested teams to see where they stand.

Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The issues probably remain the same for those clubs. They’re unlikely to pay the Sabres’ hefty asking price for a talented but expensive player who’s yet to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.

The Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives are still working on a long-term deal believed comparable to teammate Thomas Chabot’s eight-year, $8 million per season contract. Both sides hope to have a deal in place before training camp opens later this month.

Friedman feels the Vancouver Canucks have made more progress in contract talks with Quinn Hughes than with Elias Pettersson. He wonders if Pettersson might be waiting to see what Minnesota Wild winger Kiril Kaprizov gets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could end up digging deep to pay Pettersson. Kaprizov reportedly could get $9 million annually on a five-year deal from the Wild.

Sources say Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev asked to be traded following last season but the club doesn’t want to accommodate his request. The departures of Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton mean the Leafs envision a bigger role for Mikheyev this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Playing time was apparently the issue for Mikheyev. He should get much more of that this season, providing him a terrific opportunity to prove his worth to the Leafs.

Friedman rejected rumors suggesting the Arizona Coyotes could trade defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he thinks veteran winger Phil Kessel could draw a lot of attention if he has a hot start to this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan observed, the Coyotes see the 23-year-old Chychrun as a player they can build around. Kessel, on the other hand, becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer and no longer has a future in Arizona. While the Coyotes only carry $6.8 million of his $8 million AAV, it could still be difficult to find takers for that cap hit.

A couple of teams are awaiting Tyler Bozak’s decision on where he’ll play this season. Friedman wonders if the 35-year-old center might land in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the shelf to start the season.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas scuttled rumors linking his club to New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. “I can definitively say that we have not thought a single thing about any player that is going to be a free agent a year from now,” said Dubas.

Koshan also reports Dubas did give some thought to trading one of his core players during the offseason. However, it didn’t sound like much serious thought was given to that idea.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s $9 million annual average value and the decline in his performance in recent years make him difficult to move right now.

I don’t doubt Dubas and the Leafs’ brain trust gave some thought to shake up their core but it was apparent during their season-ending press conference that they want to keep that group intact for this season. That could change next summer, however, if the Leafs fail again to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Dubas might not even be part of that decision as another early postseason exit could cost him his job.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – September 6, 2021

A look at which players the Canadiens may have pursued before acquiring Christian Dvorak, plus the latest on Elias Pettersson, P.K. Subban and what the Leafs and Kraken must still address in the Labor Day edition of the NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In their latest “31 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed the aftermath of the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet saga. Friedman believes Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin may have called around asking about San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Calgary’s Sean Monahan. Bergevin acquired Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes almost immediately after declining to match the Kotkaniemi offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dvorak seemed to be at or near the top of Bergevin’s list during his search last week for a replacement for Kotkaniemi. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels mentioned him as a trade target soon after the offer sheet was signed. I don’t doubt the Habs GM shopped around to see what other options were available but I don’t think he just settled for Dvorak.

Friedman also reported the Kotkaniemi offer sheet had the Vancouver Canucks’ front office nervous about another club doing the same with Elias Pettersson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Contract talks are ongoing between Pettersson and the Canucks. The 22-year-old center would be a tempting target despite the Canucks’ public stance that they’d match any offer.

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

However, the high cost of signing away Pettersson ($9 million or more per season) plus the compensation owed to the Canucks for a successful signing (at least two first-round picks, a second, and a third-round pick) make an offer sheet unlikely in this case.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports multiple sources confirmed the Bruins, on more than one occasion, explored what it would take to acquire P.K. Subban from the New Jersey Devils. At the same time, they hope to convince the Devils to pick up half of his $9 million cap hit for this season. Murphy also said the Toronto Maple Leafs had “more than lukewarm interest” in Subban.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would take a substantial offer to convince Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald to eat half of Subban’s cap hit. He can afford it but why do another club a favor for a less than worthwhile return?

Fitzgerald also isn’t under any pressure to move Subban. He’s only on their books for this season after which he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Devils also aren’t facing any cap crunch this season.

If Fitzgerald decides to trade Subban it could be close to the March trade deadline provided the Devils are out of playoff contention by then. Most of the 32-year-old blueliner’s salary will be paid out by then, making him more enticing to other clubs.

NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger wondered who will join Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander among the Toronto Maple Leafs top-six this season. The Leafs are top-heavy and will need more secondary scoring from their supporting cast.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be Nick Ritchie, Alex Kerfoot, and/or Ilya Mikheyev skating among the top six. Perhaps Michael Bunting gets a shot at left wing if Ritchie or Kerfoot don’t work out in those roles.

Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes the Seattle Kraken still needs more firepower up front. He wonders if they have enough depth at center with Yanni Gourde sidelined for at least the opening month of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kraken GM Ron Francis could attempt to address that issue depending on how things go during the club’s first training camp and preseason games.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – August 23, 2021

The latest on Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm plus a look at some Blackhawks trade candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked whether the Nashville Predators should re-sign Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm to long- or short-term contracts. They’re slated to become unrestricted free agents next July.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Vingan expects Ekholm to get a four-year deal worth around $6 million annually. He doesn’t anticipate the 32-year-old defenseman will drag out the process.

Forsberg’s negotiations, on the other hand, could get more complicated. The 27-year-old winger is in his playing prime as the Predators engage in a “competitive rebuild”. General manager David Poile will have to sell Forsberg on his short- and long-term plans for the Predators.

Poile must also decide Forsberg’s worth. He’s currently earning an annual cap hit of $6 million. While he’s the Preds’ most talented forward, he’s inconsistent and injury-prone.

Vingan believes Forsberg could get up to $8 million annually on the open market. He feels the Predators should avoid paying that much but it’s hard to see Forsberg accepting less than the $8 million annually being paid to teammates Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forsberg’s contract situation will be worth following if he’s unsigned when the season begins. Vingan may be right about not paying him more than $8 million annually. However, having Johansen and Duchene each earning that much makes it difficult for Poile to justify paying Forsberg less.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing Forsberg’s name surface in this season’s rumor mill the longer he goes unsigned. That speculation could go into overdrive if the Predators are out of playoff contention as the trade deadline approaches.

Ekholm was the subject of intense trade chatter last season but that quickly died off as the Predators surged into a playoff spot in the weeks leading up to the April trade deadline. He seems keen to stay and Poile wants to keep him. I’ll be surprised if a new deal isn’t worked out before the season begins in October.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: With the Blackhawks bringing in additional depth and flexibility to their roster for this season, Ben Pope examined which players could become trade candidates.

Among the forwards, Dylan Strome could be shopped but that might not happen if captain Jonathan Toews isn’t ready to return to action in September and October. If that happens, Strome could get a second chance as a second-line center.

Brett Connolly could also hit the trade block. He’s 29 and overpaid at $3.5 million per season through 2022-23. With Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen expected to split the goalie duties, Malcolm Subban could be traded rather than lost for nothing via waivers.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2021

The NHL expansion draft begins at 8 pm ET tonight. Check out the latest on Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, Gabriel Landeskog, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST EXPANSION DRAFT SPECULATION

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports there’s an expectation the Seattle Kraken could make an 11th-hour pitch to the Montreal Canadiens to ask their price to not select Carey Price. LeBrun doubts Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will pay it since he and Price agreed the latter would be exposed in the draft.

Will the Seattle Kraken select Carey Price in the expansion draft? (NHL Images)

Price, meanwhile, is slated to be examined in New York on Thursday regarding hip and knee ailments. Kraken GM Ron Francis has had a few conversations with Price’s agent.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports Francis has received the green light from Kraken ownership to select Price if they see fit despite the goalie’s health issues and expensive contract.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan examined Bergevin’s options to replace Price if he’s selected by the Kraken. Free-agent options could include Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier, Toronto’s Frederik Andersen and Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, who began his NHL career in Montreal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll learn officially after 8 pm ET tonight if the Kraken snap-up Price. Doing so would free up $10.5 million in cap space for Bergevin to seek a short-term replacement. Possible trade targets could include Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo.

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports of rumors the Kraken could select St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and flip him to the Philadelphia Flyers for winger Jakub Voracek and a draft pick. Other reports they could target the  Washington Capitals for center Evgeny Kuznetsov. The New York Rangers have also been mentioned because of Tarasenko’s friendship with Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would be very interesting to see if the Kraken would go that route with Tarasenko. They’ll have to get something worthwhile in the return to consider it.

Maybe they’d accept Voracek if they select James van Riemsdyk from the Flyers in the expansion draft. Despite Kuznetsov’s personal baggage, the Kraken could take the chance if they fail to land a quality center in the draft. Perhaps they could pry Pavel Kuchnevich and a draft pick or prospect from the Rangers.

Tarasenko isn’t the only player the Kraken could attempt to flip to another club soon after the draft. NBC Sports Adam Gretz also listed Calgary’s Mark Giordano, New Jersey’s P.K. Subban, Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok, Anaheim’s Adam Henrique and Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere as possible trade candidates if selected by the Kraken.

Pierre LeBrun also reported Gabriel Landeskog’s camp had a conversation with the Kraken on Sunday but there’s been nothing further since. Unless things change, he doubts the Kraken will sign the Colorado Avalanche. Landeskog is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

Darren Dreger reports Francis has had a number of conversations with agent J.P. Barry, who represents pending UFAs Dougie Hamilton and Adam Larsson. They could be preliminary discussions. Francis’ window of exclusivity to negotiate with unprotected free agents expires at 10 am ET today.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Kraken are locked-in on Florida Panthers goalie Chris Driedger. He wondered if they’ll also attempt to add Frank Vatrano or if Driedger becomes their pick from the Panthers. They’re also interested in St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz. Do they add him now or select Vince Dunn and add the winger later?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Kraken don’t sign Landeskog, Driedger, Schwartz, Hamilton or Larsson today they can continue contract discussions with them. It just means they’ll be jockeying with other clubs interested in their services as the start of free agency (July 28) draws nearer.

DAILY FACEOFF: Cam Lewis cited a recent report claiming the New Jersey Devils appear interested in moving P.K. Subban. They exposed him in the expansion draft but were also trying to find a taker for the former Norris Trophy winner. Lewis wondered if they can convince the Kraken to take on the final season of Subban’s contract. He carries a $9 million cap hit for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps that will become one of those side deals we heard so much about leading up to today’s draft. It could take a significant sweetener to convince the Kraken to do that.

IN OTHER RUMORS…

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reported the Minnesota Wild continues to have discussions with the Buffalo Sabres regarding Jack Eichel. However, the asking price for the 24-year-old center remains very high.

It’s believed Sabres GM Kevin Adams sought all futures from the Wild. That would mean top prospects Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy plus two first-round picks. Given Eichel’s $10 million annual average value, the Sabres would have to take back a significant salary from the Wild or find another club to act as a third-party broker.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russo doesn’t see a clear path for the Wild to acquire Eichel unless the Sabres lower their prices. He’s previously reported GM Bill Guerin is reluctant to burn through his cap space or deplete his prospect pipeline.

Speaking of Eichel, The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski cited Elliotte Friedman saying the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames are out of the bidding, at least for now. The Wild and Rangers are listed as possibilities.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov received a significant offer from KHL club CSKA Moscow. Guerin is aware of it but he believes they can bridge the cap in contract talks with the 2021 Calder Trophy winner.

LeBrun also reports the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens are among the teams believed interested in Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets could lose defenseman Dylan DeMelo in the expansion draft. Canadiens captain Shea Weber could miss all of next season (and perhaps more) due to multiple lingering injuries.

Darren Dreger reports the Arizona Coyotes continue shopping Oliver Ekman-Larsson but his $8.25 million annual cap hit is a tough sell. Perhaps interest will pick up if a team loses a good defenseman in the expansion draft.

Meanwhile, there’s no progress in contract talks between the Coyotes and winger Conor Garland. Several clubs are keeping an eye on the restricted free agent’s situation.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 12, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 12, 2021

Some proposed trade destinations for Vladimir Tarasenko and some recent Devils speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHERE COULD TARASENKO GO?

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz looked at several teams that he believes should pursue a trade for Vladimir Tarasenko. The 29-year-old St. Louis Blues winger has requested a trade, reportedly in part because of his unhappiness over the club’s treatment of an ongoing shoulder injury.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

Gretz suggests the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, Seattle Kraken and Nashville Predators should be calling. He believes the Rangers have the cap space and could be a good fit alongside Artemi Panarin on their top line. The Oilers should avoid pursuing aging defenseman Duncan Keith in favor of adding another impact player to provide more scoring depth.

The Devils have cap space and they need a scoring winger. The Kraken also have plenty of cap dollars and Tarasenko could quickly help them become competitive. The Predators need scoring though Gretz acknowledged the cap hit could get tricky.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The complication for the Rangers is how Tarasenko’s $7.5 million annual average value for the next two seasons would affect their efforts to re-sign first-line center Mika Zibanejad or find a suitable replacement. The Oilers have a greater need to improve their blueline and their goaltending so I don’t see them getting into the bidding for Tarasenko.

The Devils could be a good fit provided they’re on Tarasenko’s list of preferred trade destinations. If he wants to go to a contender he won’t be interested in joining an expansion club because there’s no certainty the Kraken will emulate the Vegas Golden Knights’ success. I don’t think the Predators can afford to add Tarasenko without shedding Matt Duchene’s contract.

Gretz considers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders as long shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko can’t help the Jackets’ need for a first-line center. I agree with Gretz that the Bruins won’t be able to add another scorer if they’re focused on re-signing Taylor Hall, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. He also pointed out the Islanders would need to make several moves to fit Tarasenko under their salary cap.

DEVILS SHOPPING DEFENSEMEN?

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported New Jersey Devils general manager is working on reshaping his defense corps. Multiple sources claim they’re gauging interest in P.K. Subban and are listening on Will Butcher.

Subban and Butcher are a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. Blueliners Matt Tennyson, Ryan Murray and Connor Carrick become UFAs on July 28. Murphy wonders if Fitzgerald will try to sign away Adam Pelech from the New York Islanders with an offer sheet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban isn’t the offensive star he once was but has remade himself into a more defensively responsible blueliner. The Devils will have to absorb part of his $9 million annual salary-cap hit or take back another hefty contract to facilitate a trade. Butcher has good puck-moving skills but his stats have declined since his promising 44-point debut in 2017-18.

The Devils have over $35 million in projected cap space for 2021-22. Fitzgerald has the room to sign Pelech or another club’s restricted free agent defenseman to an offer sheet. However, that doesn’t mean anyone he targets will sign. Offer sheets rarely occur and the last player successfully signed away was Dustin Penner in 2007.