NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

Some recent Leafs speculation and a look at Dougie Hamilton’s contract situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what might happen if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs or are eliminated in the opening round. He believes team president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe should be granted one more shot in 2021-22. However, it could spell the end of the “Core Four” of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox noted Dubas has resisted breaking up that core, pointing out the moves made during this offseason doesn’t project a sense of hot-seat panic. Nevertheless, a shakeup could be in store if the Leafs make another early playoff exit or miss the postseason entirely.

Matthews, Tavares and Marner each earn over $10.8 million annually. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. It could be difficult moving one of them under a flattened cap for 2021-22, Nylander could be the more likely trade chip. His annual average value ($6.96 million) is more affordable and he lacks no-trade protection.

Fox believes the Leafs are done for the offseason. He doesn’t rule out professional tryout offers (PTO), noting Dubas said he’s open to anything. However, the club’s lack of cap space makes it unlikely they’ll sign another UFA or go the PTO route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are above the $81.5 million cap by just over $1 million according to Cap Friendly. They have no room for other additions unless Dubas acquires a player on permanent long-term injury reserve for additional salary-cap wiggle room or makes a cost-cutting trade.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes Dougie Hamilton’s next contract is among several big decisions facing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021. GM Don Waddell is interested in negotiating a new deal with him before the start of the season.

O’Brien speculates Hamilton will want security after being traded twice. While the 27-year-old rearguard could find next year’s UFA market challenging, O’Brien notes high-end defensemen like Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug received lucrative deals this year. Even lesser blueliners like Chris Tanev, Dylan DeMelo and Joel Edmundson were among those receiving significant terms.

The Hurricanes must also re-sign rising star Andrei Svechnikov plus goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek will become UFAs next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable that Waddell would be interested in signing Hamilton before this season opens. The puck-moving blueliner is in the final season of a six-year deal with an AAV of $5.75 million. Hamilton was in the running for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg. Another Norris-worthy performance in 2020-21 could push his asking price to between $8 – $9 million annually.

The Hurricanes have over $52 million invested in 12 players for 2020-21. Big raises for Hamilton and Svechnikov could use up a combined $15 million. Given the uncertainty over next season and another flattened salary cap, the Hurricanes might not spend to the ceiling for 2021-22. The longer Hamilton goes unsigned, the more his name will surface in the rumor mill during 2020-21.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2020

The latest on Steven Stamkos, Brendan Gallagher, Andrei Svechnikov and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

  SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said team captain Steven Stamkos was dealing with a compensation injury triggered by his rehab from sports hernia surgery in March. Stamkos is expected to be fully recovered in time for the start of next season.

TORONTO SUN: Speaking of the Lightning, they’re facing criticism for holding a public parade in downtown Tampa where fans were packed shoulder-to-shoulder cheering for their champions. Some of the players allowed several fans to drink from the Stanley Cup. Winger Alex Killorn also slapped the hands of fans as he walked along a barricade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN reports the NHL reached out to the Lightning questioning some of that behavior. We don’t know if the league intends to discipline the club or any individual players. Here’s hoping no one contracted or spread COVID-19 during the celebrations.

RDS.CA: Brendan Gallagher could soon become the Montreal Canadiens’ highest-paid forward. General manager Marc Bergevin said preliminary contract talks have started and he’s confident a new deal can be worked out soon. He said he’d like to keep Gallagher with the Habs for the rest of his NHL playing career and intends to make him the club’s best-paid forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, Gallagher’s current annual average salary if $3.75 million. Jonathan Drouin’s $5.5 million AAV is the highest among the Canadiens’ forwards. Gallagher has a year remaining on his current contract. Depending on the length of his next deal, his annual cap hit could be over $6 million.

THE SCORE: cites TSN’s Frank Seravalli reporting the Edmonton Oilers are making progress on a long-term contract extension with forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He’s entering the final season of a seven-year, $42-million contract. A deal isn’t imminent but is reportedly heading in the right direction.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Nugent-Hopkins’ next contract looks like. It could cost the Oilers over $7 million annually to keep him in the fold.

SPORTSNET: Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said his club is in contract talks with winger Andrei Svechnikov, who has a year remaining on his entry-level deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov and linemate Sebastian Aho provide the Hurricanes with one of the NHL’s best one-two scoring punches. Aho is earning over $8.45 million annually and Svechnikov could seek around $7 million per season on his next contract.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman confirmed veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard won’t be back. He intends to sign a replacement via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise about Howard. Yzerman will find plenty of options in this year’s UFA market. The possibilities could include Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, now-former Ranger Henrik Lundqvist, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, and Calgary’s Cam Talbot. He might have to overpay for one of them, given the Wings’ status as a rebuilding team.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Michael Murray as the assistant to general manager Bill Guerin.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes named Darryl Plandowski as their new director of amateur scouting.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 29, 2020

The playoff schedule resumes today, former Panthers GM under investigation for uttering a racial slur, plus updates on Andrei Svechnikov, John Tortorella, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league has released its revised schedule for the resumption of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 4 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins begins at noon ET, Game 3 between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders starts at 7 pm ET, and Game 3 between the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks begins at 9:45 ET. The Lightning holds a 2-1 series lead over the Bruins, while the Flyers and Islanders and the Golden Knights and Canucks are tied at a game apiece.

 SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders what steps the NHL will take in the wake of the recent player protest against racial injustice to ensure the fight for equality isn’t forgotten. He cites TSN’s Rick Westhead reporting the Hockey Diversity Alliance has requested the league to invest $100 million over 10 years to fund anti-racism, education, and grass-roots initiatives. That works out to just over $312K per team or less than half the minimum salary of one player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable request by the HDA. It’ll also be interesting to see if the NHL Players Association will be working alongside the league in this matter or if they’ll be taking their own steps.

SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars president and CEO Brad Alberts said his club lost season-ticket holders over its support of Black Lives Matter and protests over racial inequality. He claimed it was a mix of individual and company accounts. “But I/we stand by our organization’s commitment and support our players 100% to express their views,” said Alberts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first report I’ve seen by a team regarding the loss of season-ticket holders over the players’ recent protests. Alberts didn’t specify how many season-ticket holders the Stars lost. It could’ve been a large number or a handful. He also said none of the club’s advertisers have pulled funding.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW(subscription required): George Richards reports the NHL is investigating whether former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon used a racial slur while representing the team. Tallon has been accused of using racially-charge language at some point during the Panthers time in the Toronto playoff bubble.

Tallon denied the charge. “I am not a racist by any means,” he said. “I have never said anything of the sort. I am all for peace, am all for this alliance and what everyone is trying to do right now.”

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports the $25,000 fine levied by the league on Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is the 15th time he’s been punished by the league. Portzline estimates Tortorella has lost “well over $200,000” because of “his mouth and his temper.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think Tortorella is losing any sleep over those fines. While he’s mellowed a bit over the years, he remains outspoken and irritable. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov said he’d be ready to go if his club were still in the postseason. He was sidelined two weeks ago by a high-ankle sprain suffered in his club’s first-round series with the Boston Bruins. Svechnikov said he’s now feeling at almost 100 percent.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a one-year contract extension worth $750K.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings loaned defenseman Filip Hronek to Mountfield HK of the Czech League. He’s the fifth player the Wings have loaned to European clubs. All are scheduled to return to the Wings once NHL training camps later this fall.

THE PROVINCE: The death of popular Vancouver sportswriter Jason Botchford was revealed to be caused by an accidental overdose of cocaine and fentanyl. Botchford died suddenly last April at age 48. He covered the Canucks for The Province from 2005 to 2018.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s still a tragic, heartbreaking loss for Botchford’s family, friends, and the hockey community regardless of the cause of death.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 17, 2020

Recaps of Sunday’s action plus the latest on Andrei Svechnikov, David Pastrnak, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

  NHL.COM: The New York Islanders have the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination following their 2-1 overtime victory in Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Mathew Barzal broke a 1-1 tie to give the Isles a commanding 3-0 series lead. Anders Lee opened the scoring for the Islanders while Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it in the second period.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have been outplayed by the Islanders, especially five-on-five. They held Washington captain Alex Ovechkin to just one shot in this contest. The Isles also held the Caps to just five goals in this series and can complete the sweep on Tuesday.

Joe Pavelski’s hat trick set the stage for Alexander Radulov’s overtime goal as the Dallas Stars edged the Calgary Flames 5-4 to tie their series at two games apiece. Stars defenseman John Klingberg picked up three assists. Flames forward Sam Bennett scored twice while Calgary goalie Cam Talbot made 57 saves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A vintage playoff performance by Pavelski, having the type of game the Stars expected when they signed him last summer. The Flames’ undisciplined play did in them in, taking seven penalties to the Stars’ four.

Corey Crawford made 48 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks staved off elimination with a 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Drake Caggiula, Matthew Highmore, and Alex DeBrincat scored for the Blackhawks. Vegas winger Max Pacioretty was fined $2,500.00 for slashing DeBrincat as he scored into the empty net.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford saved the Blackhawks’ bacon. Most of this game seemed to be played in the Chicago zone but he put in a stellar performance to steal this one and keep his team’s hopes alive.

Braydon Schenn scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues nipped the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 3 of their first-round series. Jake Allen made 39 saves for the win while Ryan O’Reilly collected two assists. Jacob Markstrom kicked out 46 shots for the Canucks, who lead the series 2-1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Blues to avoid falling behind 3-0. Allen was solid replacing a struggling Jordan Binnington. The Blues were also playing without Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen as they were declared unfit to play for this game. Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes is just the third rookie defenseman in NHL history to tally points in six straight playoff games.

The Philadelphia Flyers spoiled Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price’s 33 birthday with a 1-0 win to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Flyers goalie Carter Hart made 23 saves while Jakub Voracek scored the only goal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good bounce-back performance by Hart and his teammates after getting blown out 5-0 in Game 2. This was a tight-checking, choppy game with Hart and Price once again the standouts.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Caroline Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said it’s highly doubtful Andrei Svechnikov returns to action during their opening-round series against the Boston Bruins. The winger suffered a leg injury during Game 3 on Saturday and will undergo an MRI today. Brind’Amour doesn’t rule out Svechnikov returning if the Canes reach the Eastern Conference Final or the Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov’s injury might not be playoff-ending for him, but his absence will be felt by the Hurricanes. He and linemate Sebastian Aho provided Carolina with a potent one-two scoring punch.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy guessed there’s a 50-50 chance David Pastrnak suited up for Game 4 today against the Hurricanes. The winger’s been sidelined since suffering an apparent leg injury during Game 1.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask left the Boston Bruins to return home for family reasons. (NHL Images)

Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.

It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.

While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.

The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.

Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.

HEADLINES

RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 10, 2020

The Blue Jackets eliminate the Leafs from the qualifying round, Blues and Bruins fall to No. 4 seeds in their conferences, the second phase of draft lottery goes tonight, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets advanced to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in the fifth and deciding game of their qualifying-round series. Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned in a 33-save shutout while Zach Werenski, Liam Foudy, and Nick Foligno were the goal scorers. The Jackets face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of their 2019 opening-round series. Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski scored the winning goal in a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 5 of their qualifying-round series (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid effort by the Jackets in withstanding the Leafs’ offense and avoiding a repeat of their Game 4 collapse. Foudy’s goal was the dagger as the Leafs visibly sagged after that.

Another disappointing end to another season sparked plenty of fan and pundit criticism of the Leafs management over how the roster was constructed. I’ll have more later this morning in the Rumor Mill. As for Barrie, that game was likely his last as a Leaf. He’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return.

Braden Holtby kicked out 30 shots as the Washington Capitals held off the Boston Bruins 2-1 in round-robin play. T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored for the Caps while Jake DeBrusk replied for the Bruins. The Capitals earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins slipped to fourth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were winless in their three round-robin games. One reason is the “Perfection Line” (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand) was anything but, collecting just one assist between them. The Bruins need more from their top line as they face off against the hungry young Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round.

The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues dropped into the fourth seed in the Western Conference following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars in round-robin play. The Stars picked up the third seed following Denis Gurianov’s game-winning goal after Joe Pavelski tied it late in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting that last year’s Cup finalists didn’t play that well during round-robin play, looking nothing like their dominant selves during the regular season. Maybe beging guaranteed playoff berths had something to do with it. Perhaps they couldn’t get motivated for the round-robin after going through a four-round slog last spring. Maybe they need a little more time getting up to speed following a long layoff. Whatever the reason, they’d better rediscover their winning ways soon or their hopes for another shot at the Cup will be quickly dashed. 

HEADLINES

The opening-round match-ups and schedules were released last night. The first games begin Tuesday, Aug. 11. Each series is now a best-of-seven format:

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes

Western Conference

Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche vs Arizona Coyotes

Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames

St. Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks

Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery goes tonight at 6 pm ET to determine which of the eight clubs eliminated from the qualifying round will win the first-overall pick. Each team as a 12.5 percent chance of winning the pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect howls of outrage from some observers if the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs win that pick. I, on the other hand, will delight in the chaos and the possibilities that could arise if one of those teams wins the pick. Will they shop it to address their roster weaknesses, or keep it and instead trade away a current star? That will stir the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the draft in October.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Max Pacioretty has joined his teammates in Edmonton for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Pacioretty had remained in Las Vegas during the round-robin to treat a minor injury suffered during training camp.

THE WASHINGTON POST’s Samantha Pell reports Capitals coach Todd Reirden hopes defenseman John Carlson will be ready for Game 1 against the New York Islanders. Carlson hasn’t played since being sidelined during exhibition play nearly two weeks ago.

CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz was a full participant in practice yesterday. He’d been sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered during exhibition play.

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (undisclosed) returned to practice yesterday and could be ready for Game 1 against the Capitals. He’d been sidelined since suffering an apparent head injury in Game 1 of the qualifier series against the Florida Panthers.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, 37, is uncertain if this season was his last with the Wild and in the NHL. He’s an unrestricted free agent but intends to weigh his options, including talking with Wild management to see if they’re interested in bringing him back next season. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed winger Evgeny Svechnikov to a one-year contract extension. Salary details weren’t disclosed.