NHL ProteauType: With Eichel Injured, Sabres’ Nightmare Season Hits New Low
Updates on Taylor Hall, Alex Ovechkin and Tuukka Rask plus the latest on the Canucks and Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HALL INTERESTED IN RE-SIGNING WITH SABRES
NHL.COM: cited a report in The Buffalo News in which Taylor Hall said he’s willing to sign another contract with the Sabres despite a disappointing performance by himself and the team this season. Hall said he’s enjoying his time in Buffalo, praising his teammates and coaching staff, adding he and his agent are “open to anything.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not doubting Hall’s sincerity and perhaps Sabres management would be interested. Given the club’s current plight, however, I don’t think there’s a deal to be had unless the Sabres are willing to pony up a hefty long-term contract.
The Sabres have already been soaked with the Jeff Skinner deal. Unlike Hall, Skinner had a solid performance in his contract year. Team owners Terry and Kim Pegula could be reluctant to risk a similar investment on Hall.
LATEST ON THE CAPITALS AND BRUINS
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz cited NHL insider Bob McKenzie reporting Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin could resume contract talks with management in April. Ovechkin (who represents himself in contract talks) met with Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan earlier this season but the two sides agreed to table talks until later in the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Gretz points out, both sides want to get a contract extension done but how much and for how long could make it challenging. Ovechkin will be 36 when his new contract begins next season and at some point won’t be a $9.5 million player anymore.
MacKenzie also reported the Capitals could be in the market for an experienced goaltender given the lack of experience of their current tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. Their limited salary-cap space could hamper those efforts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals added Craig Anderson as a third goalie. However, the 39-year-old is past his prime and only appeared in two games this season.
McKenzie also reports the Boston Bruins could explore new contracts for pending free-agent goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. The Bruins also have sufficient salary-cap flexibility to add a significant player before the April 12 trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins have limited options available to replace Rask and Halak via this summer’s UFA market. It would also be difficult to find suitable replacements via the trade market. Re-signing both to reasonable short-term contracts could be their best option.
The Bruins need an experienced top-four, left-side defenseman and a reliable second-line scorer. They’ve been linked to Nashville Predators blueliner Mattias Ekholm and forward Mikael Granlund.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND FLAMES
TSN: Darren Dreger speculates the Vancouver Canucks could shop pending UFA winger Tanner Pearson if unable to re-sign him before the April 12 trade deadline.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reported the Arizona Coyotes have had a longstanding interest in Pearson stretching back to last October’s trade talks with the Canucks regarding Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He suggests it’s best the Canucks move Pearson for something handy as they face re-signing young stars such as Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes in the near future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Pearson could be traded if the cost of retaining him could affect the cap space necessary to re-sign the Canucks’ top young players. Maybe the Coyotes could revisit their interest if they become buyers at the trade deadline.
Ben Kuzma recently reported there’s been some trade buzz surrounding Canucks center Brandon Sutter. A pending UFA like Pearson, Sutter wants to stay in Vancouver but Kuzma points out he could also be a good rental solution for the Edmonton Oilers as a replacement for the disappointing Kyle Turris on their third line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sutter has a 15-team no-trade list but the Oilers might not be on it. They have limited cap space so the Canucks would have to pick up a healthy chunk of Sutter’s remaining salary. They could try to swap Turris for Sutter but I doubt the Canucks would do it as Turris has another year remaining on his contract with a $1.65 million cap hit.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports the Calgary Flames are in the market for a right-winger. They’d like to move Elias Lindholm from the top line to center the second line, which would create a need to replace him on the right side. They’ve tried several players in that role this season but haven’t found the right fit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli recently listed Detroit’s Bobby Ryan and Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen on his updated trade-bait list. Both are affordable but Ryan would be the better option if the Flames seek a rental player. Kyle Palmieri could be a better one if the New Jersey Devils become sellers at the trade deadline.
Walter Gretzky, the father of Wayne Gretzky, passed away at 82, the Flames replace head coach Geoff Ward with Darryl Sutter, plus recaps of Thursday’s games and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Walter Gretzky, father of Wayne Gretzky, passed away at age 82 after battling several illnesses including Parkinson’s disease. The world’s most famous hockey dad, Walter’s guidance and tutelage helped develop Wayne into the greatest player in NHL history.
“For my sister and my 3 brothers, Dad was our team captain – he guided, protected, and led our family every day, every step of the way,” wrote Wayne on Twitter in announcing Walter’s passing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Gretzky family and Walter’s friends. He will be greatly missed. A kind, friendly man who devoted considerable time to charitable causes and always had time for a fan, Walter’s passing leaves a void in the hockey world.
“There’s no relationship like a father and son.” – Wayne Gretzky
As long as there is hockey, Walter’s story will be told. Stephen Brunt remembers Canada’s favourite hockey dad. pic.twitter.com/fhkv1YemyV
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 5, 2021
The Calgary Flames’ 7-3 drubbing of the Ottawa Senators was overshadowed by their firing of head coach Geoff Ward following the game. His replacement is Darryl Sutter, who coached the Flames from 2002 to 2006 and was also their general manager from 2003 to 2010. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Flames signed Sutter to a three-year contract (this season plus two more).
Flames winger Dillon Dube tallied his first career NHL hat trick while Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists. Sam Bennett was made a healthy scratch from this contest as a “coach’s decision” by Ward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ward became the Flames’ interim head coach in November 2019 and was named their full-time head coach last September. The club’s inconsistency this season has threatened to derail their playoff hopes. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform under Sutter, a no-nonsense coach who guided the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final and went on to win two Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.
The New York Islanders extended their home record to 8-0-2 by dropping the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. Matt Martin scored twice and Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist. Sabres winger Taylor Hall tallied his first goal since the club’s season-opener on Jan. 14.
Chris Kreider tallied a hat trick to lead the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils 6-1. It was a costly win for the Rangers as goaltender Igor Shesterkin left the game in the third period with a lower-body injury. Struggling Blueshirts center Mika Zibanejad had his ice time reduced, including being bench for the first half of the second period. Earlier in the day, the Devils announced captain Nico Hischier is week-to-week with a sinus fracture after being hit in the face by the puck during Saturday’s loss to Washington.
Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov finally faced off against brother Evgeny Svechnikov in a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Andrei had a goal and an assist while Evgeny picked up an assist for the Red Wings. Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player discipline for a dangerous slew foot on Wings forward Robby Fabbri.
The Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3. Claude Giroux scored twice, including the game-winner. Flyers forward Joel Farabee missed the game as he was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Penguin captain Sidney Crosby came off the list yesterday and picked up an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Farabee is just one of three players on the protocol list, joining Boston’s Charlie Coyle and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.
Paul Stastny scored twice and Pierre-Luc Dubois tallied in overtime as the Winnipeg Jets nipped the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Corey Perry had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who’ve dropped six games in overtime this season and are 3-5-4 in their last 12 games. They hold a two-point over the Flames for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Scotia North Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Alex Killorn. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shutout streak ended at three games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A tough loss for the Blackhawks as they outplayed the Lightning through the first two periods and carried a 2-0 lead into the third.
Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad had a career-best four-point performance (two goals, two assists) as his club held off the Nashville Predators 5-4. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov collected three helpers. Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson each had a three-point game for the Predators.
The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.
A two-goal performance by Jake Virtanen lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-1 upset of the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs. Canucks center Elias Pettersson missed the game with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was fined $5,000.00 by the league’s department of player discipline for spearing Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic on Wednesday.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm will be sidelined for six weeks with a fractured wrist.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks forward Joachim Blichfeld received a two-game suspension by the league for an illegal hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday. MacKinnon’s status remains uncertain as the Avs have yet to release an update on his condition.
The Canucks crush the Senators, last week’s three stars are announced, the latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois and David Pastrnak, plus injury/illness updates and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brandon Sutter tallied his first career NHL hat trick and Thatcher Demko made 35 saves as the Vancouver Canucks thrashed the Ottawa Senators 7-1. Bo Horvat collected two assists while Tanner Pearson had a goal and an assist. The Senators have dropped five straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Canucks as their recent struggles were cause for concern among their followers. The two clubs meet again on Wednesday and finish their three-game series on Thursday.
Montreal Canadiens winger Tyler Toffoli, Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 24.
TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen refuted any notion that last year’s contract negotiations with Pierre-Luc Dubois led to the 22-year-old center being traded on Saturday to the Winnipeg Jets.
Dubois suggested in a recent interview that those discussions led in part to his trade request. “That’s just flat out not true at all and he knows that, so I don’t know why he would say that or even insinuate something like that, because it’s not true,” said Kekalainen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The real reason for Dubois’ trade request will be a hot topic for some time. Some believe it was his relationship with Jackets coach John Tortorella but Dubois has denied this.
There are also lots of guessing behind the trade request of Patrik Laine, who the Jackets swapped for Dubois. Some condemn Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Paul Maurice and Jets leaders Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele for creating a supposed toxic atmosphere that drove Laine away. Others blame the winger’s perceived lackadaisical approach.
CBS SPORTS: David Pastrnak could return to action with the Boston Bruins as soon as Saturday. The 24-year-old winger has been sidelined by offseason hip surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s good news for a Bruins’ offense that has been inconsistent without their leading goal scorer.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Adam Boqvist were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Monday. There’s no confirmation either player has tested positive for the coronavirus.
THE SCORE: The NHL postponed Tuesday’s games between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s the fourth consecutive Hurricanes game to be postponed. The club currently has five players on the COVID-19 protocol list with three confirmed to have tested positive. The league has released new dates for each of the postponed contests.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Greg Pateryn were placed on waivers Monday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mitchel Stephens is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury while defenseman Erik Cernak is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evan Rodrigues is sidelined indefinitely with an apparent lower-body injury suffering during a collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil on Sunday.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Former Coyotes GM John Chayka has been suspended to the end of 2021 by the NHL for conduct detrimental to the league and the game. The suspension is reportedly due to Chayka’s departure from the Coyotes last summer.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators goaltender Connor Ingram will be away from the club for an indefinite period as he voluntarily entered the league’s player assistance program.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Goaltender Scott Darling has signed a professional tryout offer with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, Illinois. Darling spent three seasons with the Blackhawks from 2014-15 to 2016-17, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2015.
The Sabres avoid arbitration with Sam Reinhart and Linus Ullmark, the Red Wings and Tyler Bertuzzi await an arbiter’s decision, and Martin Hanzal retires. Check out the details in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with winger Sam Reinhart and goaltender Linus Ullmark. Reinhart agreed to a one-year, $5.2 million contract while Ullmark inked a one-year deal worth $2.6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both are affordable short-term contracts that could lead to more lucrative deals for both players following next season. Reinhart, 24, exceeded 40 points in each of his five NHL seasons, including 65 points in 2018-19 and 50 points in 69 games last season. Ullmark, 27, took over as the Sabres’ starting goaltender last season, finishing with 17 wins in 34 games with a 2.69 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and Tyler Bertuzzi had their virtual salary-arbitration hearing yesterday and now await the arbiter’s decision. The Wings offered $3.15 million while Bertuzzi sought $4.25 million. The 25-year-old winger led the club with 21 goals and finished second in points with 48.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi is the first player among the 26 who filed for arbitration this year to go before an arbiter. The report also notes the arbiter’s decision will be handed down within 48 hours of the hearing’s completion. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the team and the player can no longer continue to negotiate once the hearing is completed.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks opted not to use their second buyout window on Sunday to buy out the remaining season of Brandon Sutter’s contract. He’s earning an annual average value of $4.35 million. General manager Jim Benning cited the 34-year-old center’s leadership and defensive skills as justification for retaining him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks are $1.5 million above the $81.5 million salary cap. The report suggested Benning has other options to become cap compliant for next season, such as putting Micheal Ferland (post-concussion symptoms) on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to start next season. He could also demote a player or two to the minors.
THE SCORE: Martin Hanzal announced his retirement citing three back surgeries. The 34-year-old center spent 12 seasons in the NHL, with nearly 10 of them with the Arizona Coyotes. Traded to the Minnesota Wild at the 2017 trade deadline, he spent his final two seasons with the Dallas Stars, though injuries limited him to just 45 games. Hanzal finished his NHL career with 127 goals and 338 points in 673 games, as well as 13 points in 28 playoff contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hanzal in his future endeavors.
The latest on the Lightning, Oilers, Jets, Coyotes, Canucks and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIGHTNING?
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered how the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning will navigate the offseason following their Stanley Cup win. Only three defensemen (Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Braydon Coburn) are under contract for next season, with Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak restricted free agents while Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn are among their unrestricted free agents. Center Anthony Cirelli is an RFA due for a big raise.
Wyshynski observes the Lightning have $5.3 million in cap space. It’s expected they’ll have to move a veteran forward to free up cap space, with Tyler Johnson ($5 million annual value, no-trade clause) and Alex Killorn ($4.45 million AAV, modified no-trade) among the trade candidates.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun also mentioned Johnson as a trade candidate as well as center Yanni Gourde ($5.16 million). He points out both could be tough to move because of their full no-trade clauses.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre suggests the Winnipeg Jets attempt to trade for Cirelli. Noting the Lightning’s cap situation, he feels picks and/or prospects could be the return. Failing that, McIntyre suggests attempting to sign Cirelli to an offer sheet worth between $4.2 million and $6.3 million AAV.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of general managers will be interested in what Lightning GM Julien BriseBois will do to address his cap issue and re-sign Cirelli and Sergachev. Shopping one or two veteran forwards seems the likely play, though that could prove difficult if there isn’t much of a market for them or if interested clubs insist on a sweetener in the deal. Killorn’s lesser cap hit and modified no-trade makes him easier to move than Johnson and Gourde
An offer sheet for Cirelli is possible, provided he’s willing to sign one. If he does, the Bolts can spend over the cap ceiling by 10 percent in the offseason to match the offer, though they must be cap compliant when next season begins.
OILERS INTERESTED IN EKMAN-LARSSON, KUEMPER?
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Edmonton Oilers are among the clubs with interest in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman carries a hefty contract ($8.25 million AAV through 2026-27, full no-movement clause), making it a difficult transaction for the Oilers. Dreger also adds the Boston Bruins in the mix.
Pierre LeBrun adds the Oilers are looking at goaltenders and believes they’ve spoken to the Coyotes about Darcy Kuemper. He also said they have shown interest in Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek and could keep an eye on Jacob Markstrom’s contract talks with the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples doesn’t see any of those players coming to Edmonton because of the Oilers’ cap constraints. Unless GM Ken Holland intends to dump some salary to make room for one of those players, I agree with Staples’ take.
VIRTANEN ON THE MOVE?
TSN: Darren Dreger suggests the Vancouver Canucks might not have much choice but to trade Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Canucks would like to keep him but it could cost $3 million annually on a two-year deal. Dreger indicated other teams are interested in Virtanen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $14.2 million in cap space but they’re also trying to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Toffoli, which will eat up a big chunk of their available cap payroll. Depending on how those negotiations go, they could be forced to shop Virtanen.
The Canucks could also shed salary to free up additional cap room. The Province’s Steve Ewen reports GM Jim Benning is rumored to be trying to move Loui Eriksson or Brandon Sutter. He noted Eriksson’s agent said he has permission from Benning to speak with other clubs about brokering a deal, though Ewen speculates that could also require packaging the winger with a sweetener like a draft pick or prospect.
LATEST ON THE SENATORS
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch suggested possible options for the Senators if they decide to bring in an experienced goaltender. Free-agent targets could include Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss. Trade options include Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek.
Garrioch also reports the Senators are willing to listen to offers for the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have plenty of goaltending options to choose from and the cap space and trade assets to make it happen. It’ll be interesting to see what route they take.