NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2021

Jack Eichel changes agents plus the latest on John Tavares, Claude Giroux, Bo Horvat and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Still in a dispute with the Buffalo Sabres over treatment for his neck injury, center Jack Eichel has changed agents. He will now be represented by Pat Brisson of Creative Artists Agency, who also represents high-profile players such as Sidney Crosby and John Tavares.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s former agents released a statement a month ago that was critical of the Sabres’ handling of their now-former client’s situation. With no end of the stalemate in sight, hiring Brisson has sparked speculation over its effect upon his trade status. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor Mill.

NHL.COM: Speaking of Tavares, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain said he’s “doing fantastic” in his recovery from a concussion and knee injury suffered during the playoffs. He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp next month.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good to hear that Tavares is healthy and gearing up for the start of the new season. He’ll be under considerable pressure this season to lead the Leafs to playoff success after the club’s stunning first-round collapse against the Montreal Canadiens three months ago.

THE SCORE: After signing Sean Couturier to a contract extension on Thursday, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher indicated contract talks with captain Claude Giroux will be held off until the end of 2021-22. Giroux, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fletcher also said both sides are comfortable with that decision. It will allow the Flyers to evaluate their captain’s performance and his future with the club. Giroux will use this season to prove his worth to the Flyers (or other clubs) in his contract year.

THE ATHLETIC: Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat is determined to reach the playoffs this season. He believes they have the team to do it. “Enough is enough, we can talk all we want, at the end of the day we have to go out there and prove it on the ice,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expectations were high for the Canucks entering last season after reaching the second round of the 2020 playoffs. A shortened season, an outbreak of COVID-19, the offseason departures Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Toffoli, and Elias Pettersson’s season-ending injury were critical factors that scuttled their 2021 postseason hopes.

General manager Jim Benning shook up the roster, bringing in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, Jaroslav Halak and Jason Dickinson while shedding Nate Schmidt, Braden Holtby, Loui Eriksson and several others. Time will tell if those moves improve the Canucks, especially their porous blueline.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes some Jets fans are being overly critical of Josh Morrisey. While the 26-year-old defenseman was accused of slacking off last season after landing a big contract, he was in fact dealing with his father’s fight with brain cancer that eventually took his life on Aug. 8.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morrissey didn’t use that as an excuse for his inconsistent play but McIntyre believes it’s a justifiable reason. “How could it NOT have impacted his on-ice performance?”, he asked his readers.

We fans and pundits are quick to criticize players when their performance is not up to their usual standard. Sometimes it’s justified, but more often than not there are genuine reasons behind the decline. Sometimes they’re dealing with a loved one’s life-threatening illness or death. Sometimes they’re trying to play through a serious injury.

Sure, a handful of them can find the physical and mental toughness to overcome those issues and continue playing at a high level of competition. Most, however, will struggle to cope. That doesn’t make them weak. It just makes them normal. We tend to forget that.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed defenseman Jordie Benn to a one-year, $900K contract.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are reportedly close to signing defenseman Libor Hajek.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed center Ryan Poehling to a two-year contract. That leaves Jesperi Kotkaniemi as their only remaining restricted free agent.










Random Thoughts on the NHL – June 7, 2021

Random Thoughts on the NHL – June 7, 2021

The Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan floated the theory that the reason Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon didn’t get enough votes for the Ted Lindsay Award was his peers are pissed at him because his salary is so low. MacKinnon has an annual average value of $6.3 million on his current contract, ranking 92nd among the highest-paid NHL players.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images).

A tiny flaw in that theory: they voted for MacKinnon as a finalist in 2018 and again in 2020.

As for his salary, he signed his current deal on July 8, 2016, following his entry-level contract. At the time, he was coming off a 21-goal, 52-point performance in 2015-16. Even by today’s standards, he got a healthy raise for a young player yet to reach his full potential.

Sure, folks were a little puzzled over why the NHLPA membership passed over MacKinnon for his good friend Sidney Crosby. No offense to the Pittsburgh Penguins captain but his fellow Cole Harbour, NS native had a better season. Whatever the reason, it had nothing to do with a contract MacKinnon signed nearly five years ago before he became a superstar.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now if they hadn’t signed John Tavares in 2018.

That’s not a knock against Tavares. He didn’t hold a gun to the collective heads of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas. They reached out to him. They gave him the opportunity to play for his hometown team. They had no problem ponying up $11 million annually for seven years.

For the most part, Tavares has held up his end of the bargain, averaging a point per game over the last three seasons. The problem is they invested big money in a player they didn’t need.

When the Leafs signed Tavares, they were coming off a season that saw them finish fourth in the league in goals-per-game average (3.29). Meanwhile, their shots-against per game (33.9) was the fourth-highest.

Everyone knew the Leafs’ defensive game was their Achilles’ heel, and yet they went out and blew big bucks on a scoring forward.

The Tavares contract leaves the Leafs squeezed for cap space. It’s the reason why Dubas and Brandon Pridham, the Leafs’ trusty capologist, had to make cost-cutting moves to free up long-term cap space to re-sign Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. It’s why they settled for cheap veteran quick fixes last fall that didn’t pan out. And it’s why this team struggles to find the right chemistry to end its 17-year streak of postseason failure.

Trading Tavares is the easiest way to free up the dollars to resolve that issue but it’s not going to happen. His full no-movement clause puts an end to that notion. Even without it, his annual cap hit for the next four seasons is as good as a no-movement clause in this flat-cap environment.

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Everyone expects the Columbus Blue Jackets to trade Seth Jones after the 26-year-old defenseman stated his intent to test next year’s unrestricted free agent market. They cannot go through next season with his impending departure becoming an unnecessary distraction for his teammates.

Jones will draw plenty of interest in this summer’s trade market. He’s a big, minute-munching, all-around right-side blueliner. He had a down season in 2020-21 which affected his stats and analytic numbers, but there’s isn’t a general manager in the league who wouldn’t want him on their roster.

The Blue Jackets will probably try to get a significant return heavy on futures (draft picks, prospects) as they attempt to rebuild and change their culture. However, his contract status will affect his trade value. The Jackets could get a better deal if he agrees to a contract extension with the acquiring club.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 3, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 3, 2021

The Avalanche take a 2-0 series lead over the Golden Knights, the Canadiens beat the Jets in their second-round series opener, the Sabres win the draft lottery, the Ted Lindsay Award finalists are announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Mikko Rantanen’s overtime power-play goal lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights and a 2-0 lead in their second-round series. Brandon Saad and Tyson Jost also scored for Colorado while Alec Martinez and Reilly Smith replied for Vegas. Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves. Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the Golden Knights’ net after being the backup in Game 1.

Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t happy with the officiating on the slashing call on Rielly Smith that led to Rantanen’s PP goal. “Just a soft call”, he said, going on to accuse the Avalanche players of embellishment throughout the game.

The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 in Game 1 of their second-round series. Eric Staal had a goal and an assist while Carey Price made 27 saves for the win. Their victory, however, was overshadowed by a dangerous hit by Jets center Mark Scheifele on Habs center Jake Evans as the latter was scoring an empty net. Evans was stretchered from the ice while Scheifele received a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was out of character for Scheifele, who has no history of supplemental discipline. He let his emotions get away with him and could face a suspension. Evans, meanwhile, was evaluated by the Canadiens’ medical staff. John Shannon reported he was back at the team hotel following the game, where he was described as doing fine, alert but shaken.

It should be noted that Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers protected the prone Evans during the ensuing scrum. He also called for additional medical attention for the fallen Hab. “In a situation like that, you don’t want anyone falling on top of him,” said Ehlers. “I was just trying to keep everyone away.”

Winnipeg center Paul Stastny missed this game with an undisclosed injury. Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo left the game early in the first period with a lower-body injury.

The Buffalo Sabres won the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery yesterday. The expansion Seattle Kraken won the second-overall pick while the Anaheim Ducks will select third.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres could select University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power. He’s listed as this year’s top prospect by NHL Central Scouting.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid are the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan defended his team’s top-four players during the club’s end-of-season press conference. He did, however, acknowledge the club lacked a “killer instinct” that must be addressed.

SPORTSNET: Leafs captain John Tavares said he’s doing “really well” in his recovery from the traumatic head injury suffered during Game 1 against the Canadiens. Tavares missed the rest of the series with a concussion and a knee injury. He said he has no memory of the incident and doesn’t intend to watch the replay.

TSN: Leafs winger Mitch Marner denied a report that he refused to play a goal-line role on the club’s power play. “It’s a complete lie,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect Marner, Tavares, Matthews or William Nylander to be traded this summer if Shanahan’s comments are anything to go by. However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation among the Toronto media. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor Mill.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck’s status for Game 3 tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning remains uncertain. He was still being evaluated yesterday following his ankle-to-ankle collision with teammate Warren Foegele in Game 2.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Craig Smith could return to the lineup for Game 3 tonight against the New York Islanders. He missed Game 2 with a lower-body injury suffered during the previous game.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall said he’d be comfortable returning with the same group of players next season. He defended beleaguered starting goaltender Tristan Jarry, lauded the coaching staff and expects core players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang to return next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall and president of hockey ops Brian Burke intend to bring some size and toughness to the line next season. There will be some changes but those will likely involve their secondary players. They could also acquire an experienced backup as a mentor for Jarry.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Kevin Hayes underwent successful sports hernia surgery last week. His expected recovery period is five weeks.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 27, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 27, 2021

The Lightning and Islanders advance to the second round, the Wild force Game 7 with the Golden Knights, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning have advanced to the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Panthers, winning their best-of-seven series in six games. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for the shutout, team captain Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist while Pat Maroon tallied what proved to be the game-winning goal. Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow returned to action after missing six games with an upper-body injury.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This ends the most entertaining series of the opening round. The Panthers were a worthy opponent but were overwhelmed by the depth and experience of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Three-point performances by Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier carried the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to eliminate the latter in six games. Ilya Sorokin kicked out 34 shots for the Isles, who go on to face the Boston Bruins in the second round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders earned this victory with their hard work, smothering defense and timely scoring. Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry’s shaky performance in this game and throughout that series raises questions about the depth in the Penguins crease. I’ll have more in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

A 23-save shutout by Cam Talbot gave the Minnesota Wild a 3-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of their first-round series. Ryan Hartman, Kevin Fiala and Nick Bjugstad scored in the third period to force a seventh and deciding game back in Las Vegas on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have seized the momentum from the Golden Knights by overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

TSN: Maple Leafs captain John Tavares joined his teammates at their practice facility yesterday to get “re-acclimated” with his teammates, said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. Tavares suffered a concussion and knee injury in Game 1 of their current series with the Montreal Canadiens. He’s expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Leafs center Nick Foligno remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury and is questionable for Game 5 tonight. Canadiens forwards Artturi Lehkonen (upper-body) and Jake Evans (undisclosed) did not travel with their teammates to Toronto for Game 5.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bo Byram has returned to the lineup after being sidelined by a concussion since March 25.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Defenseman Ethan Bear and the Oilers spoke out yesterday after the 23-year-old was the target of racist attacks on social media following the club’s first-round elimination earlier this week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear was singled out after a Game 4 turnover resulted in a goal by the Winnipeg Jets. It’s one thing to criticize his play but attacking his Cree heritage was a despicable move by racist cowards.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks have agreed not to sue Google or the City of San Jose after the franchise and the tech company reached a settlement over the latter’s plans to expand into downtown San Jose. The Sharks were concerned over the potential effect the expansion would have on parking at SAP Center.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 23, 2021

Golden Knights and Lightning take commanding series’ leads while Leafs and Islanders get big wins to tie their respective series. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a 35-save shutout as the Vegas Golden Knights blanked the Minnesota Wild 4-0 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series. Fleury moved into a tie with Curtis Joseph for third place among the all-time playoff shutouts leaders with 16. Nicolas Roy scored twice and Mark Stone tallied a shorthanded goal. The Golden Knights can wrap things up in Game 5 on Monday in Vegas.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An apparent game-tying goal by the Wild’s Joel Eriksson Ek was overturned on a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference. Eriksson Ek also had a goal overturned in Game 3 as offside on a coach’s challenge.

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 3-1 lead in their series with a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn each collected four points while Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 41 shots. Panthers’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up five goals on 19 shots. Game 5 goes Monday in Sunrise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the worst-officiated game of these playoffs thus far. The Athletic’s Joe Smith pointed out this game took an ugly turn after Kucherov left the game with a leg injury from a slash by Panthers’ winger Anthony Duclair and teammate Mikhail Sergachev was shaken up following a blindside hit by Patric Hornqvist.

Smith also noted the game finished with 26 penalties and five misconducts, many of which stemmed from a brawl late in the third period. Lightning coach Jon Cooper struggled to keep his emotions in check talking about the officiating during the postgame press conference. No word following this game over the conditions of Kucherov and Sergachev.

Auston Matthews had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 to even their first-round series at a game apiece. William Nylander and Mitch Marner each had two points while Jack Campbell made 22 saves for his first-ever NHL playoff win. Jesperi Kotkaniemi replied for the Canadiens. The series shifts to Montreal for Game 3 on Monday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The first period was evenly matched but Toronto blew it open in the second as the Canadiens spent most of that frame on the penalty kill. The Leafs adjusted well to the Habs’ physical play while bringing their speed and offensive depth to bear.

The New York Islanders squared their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins at two games apiece with a 4-1 victory. Ilya Sorokin got the nod as the Islanders’ starting goalie over struggling Semyon Varlamov and turned aside 29 shots for the win. Isles winger Oliver Wahlstrom had a goal and an assist. The series returns to Pittsburgh on Monday for Game 5.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders are doing a fine job shutting down the Penguins’ top line. Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust each have just one point in this series. Meanwhile, a banged-up Evgeni Malkin has two assists in as many games but was also held off the score sheet in Game 4.

HEADLINES

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs general manager said team captain John Tavares suffered no structural damage to his head, face, neck or spine after being accidentally struck by the knee of Canadiens winger Corey Perry in Game 1. However, he has a concussion and also a sprained knee. He’ll be sidelined for at least two weeks.

TSN: Washington Capitals winger Anthony Mantha was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for goaltender interference against Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask during Game 4 of their first-round series.

The league also fined Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal $5,000.00 for a dangerous trip on Nashville Predators winger Luke Kunin during Game 3 of their first-round series.

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues defensemen Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo remain doubtful for Game 4 today against the Colorado Avalanche. Blueliner Vince Dunn’s status is also uncertain.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller will miss Game 5 today against the Washington Capitals. He was sidelined in Game 4 by a high hit to the head by Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers forward Kevin Hayes will reportedly undergo sports hernia surgery next week in Philadelphia. His recovery time is expected to be six weeks.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars promoted Rich Peverley to Director of Player Personnel. He’s served as their Player Development Coordinator for six years.










NHL Playoffs: Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs Game 2 Preview

NHL Playoffs: Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs Game 2 Preview