NHL Rumor Mill – September 1, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – September 1, 2018

Latest on Max Pacioretty, speculation over what notable RFAs might get and the Canucks’ efforts to land a marquee player in your NHL rumor mill.


LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Yvon Pedneault reports sources say the Montreal Canadiens could trade left wing Max Pacioretty very soon, perhaps within the next several days. He also claims Pacioretty told Canadiens owner Geoff Molson last season that it might be better if he were dealt to a new team days after general manager Marc Bergevin told him, “I’m going to trade you.”

Will the Montreal Canadiens trade Max Pacioretty soon? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pedneault also went through the oft-reported details of how a trade of Pacioretty to Los Angeles during the 2018 NHL Draft fell through because a contract extension couldn’t be worked out with the Kings, as well as the Canadiens’ captain changing agents during the period. He feels the only resolution to this situation is a trade as soon as possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Bergevin is trying to trade Pacioretty before the start of the season in October he could find it difficult getting a decent return. I’m not saying it’s impossible but Bergevin isn’t  dealing from a position of strength right now.

The better time to make that move could be near the Feb. 25 trade deadline when playoff contenders are looking to bolster their rosters. However, the downside is Pacioretty’s status will cast a pall over the upcoming season, becoming an unnecessary distraction for the team.

Then again, Bergevin could follow the recent example of Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic. Around this time last year, most fans and pundits blasted Sakic for not trading unhappy center Matt Duchene before the start of training camp. Sakic, to his credit, ignored the criticism and waited for the right offer, which eventually came in November.

A similar scenario could unfold for Pacioretty. Maybe the Kings revisit their interest in the left winger. Maybe a high-scoring forward on a playoff contender gets sidelined indefinitely early in the season, forcing his club into the trade market for immediate help. Maybe Bergevin swaps Pacioretty for another pending UFA in hopes of re-signing that player to a new contract. 


TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos looked at the remaining unsigned notable restricted free agents, speculation over the cost of getting them under contract. Based on Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander’s 48 goals and 135 points in 185 games, he could get “something in the $45-million range” spread over six or seven years. Traikos expects the Winnipeg Jets will try to lock up defenseman Josh Morrissey to “a long-term deal that looks better with every year.”

Traikos also suggests the six-year, $33-million contract of Montreal Canadiens center Jonathan Drouin “looks like a fair comparable” for Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. He feels a bridge contract might be the best option for Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie. As for Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, Traikos suspects the holdup getting him under contract might be tied to putting some money aside in case Ottawa Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson becomes available.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how these shake out. All of them are coming off entry-level contracts, meaning their only leverage is threatening not to play unless their teams meet their asking prices. However, that’s a tactic seldom employed and rarely successful. Each situation is also unique. Signing a player to a long-term deal might be worthwhile for one club while a bridge deal could be preferable to a team with limited short-term cap space. 


THE PROVINCE: Ed Willes recently noted the reports of the Vancouver Canucks apparently inquiring into the availability of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. He doubts the Canucks could land Karlsson but notes it’s the third time GM Jim Benning “made noises about pursuing a marquee name”, pointing out his previous interest in P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos two years ago.

It leaves the fans wondering about the vision of the Canucks, pointing out it would cost three or four of their promising prospects to land someone such as Karlsson. Willes believes Benning should know making that type of move “will further alienate a fan base whose patience has been worn to a nub.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps Benning is feeling pressure from ownership to make a big splash that hastens the club’s rebuild and improves ticket sales. The Canucks GM recently said he had no intention of trading away his promising assets. Of course, we all know what a GM says and what he does can be two different things.

Maybe the Canucks front office is keen to speed things along but circumstances (such as the exorbitant price of acquiring a big-name talent) could force them into staying patient with their own prospects. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 26, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 26, 2018

Updates on David Backes, Karl Alzner, Kevin Hayes, Shea Theodore and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Having shed 10 pounds in the offseason, a leaner David Backes hopes to garner more playing time and take on a larger role with the Boston Bruins. Backes, 34, hopes the weight loss will improve his speed in order to compete with younger, faster opponents.

Boston Bruins forward David Backes hopes a leaner frame will improve his speed. (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backes struggled through an injury-hampered performance last season, netting 33 points in 57 games. While getting leaner could improve his speed this season, his age could still work against him. At some point, players lose a step regardless of how hard they work to get faster.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is drawing upon his disappointing 2017-18 as motivation to improve this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alzner’s motivation might not be enough to overcome his lack of speed. The game is trending toward faster talent and Alzner had difficulty last season containing fleet-footed opposition. 

NHL.COM: Despite signing a one-year contract with the New York Rangers, center Kevin Hayes hopes his play this coming season will lead to a long-term extension. Hayes said he wants to be a leader with the Rangers and aspires to spend his entire career with the Blueshirts.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights and restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore appear no closer to a deal with the start of training camp less than three weeks away. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Theodore could be seeking a long-term deal but I think the Golden Knights are leaning toward a two- or three-year bridge contract. He’s coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights so I expect Vegas general manager George McPhee will use that leverage to his advantage. Theodore could refuse to report to training camp but that tactic rarely works nowadays. I expect he’ll be inked to a short-term contract by the time training camp opens in mid-September. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes joined all of Arizona’s pro sports teams in expressing condolences to the family of Senators John McCain, who passed away last night at age 81. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 12, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 12, 2018

Latest on the Senators plus updates on Shea Theodore, Brandon Carlo and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Ian Mendes reports of cautious optimism in Ottawa following a recent meeting between mayor Jim Watson and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk regarding a proposed new area at LeBreton Flats. Both men expressed optimism over working together to get the project going. Watson suggested construction might begin by next June. Melnyk noted some issues still remain but he doesn’t consider them insurmountable.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: cites a report by ESPN’s John Buccigross claiming prospect forward Brady Tkachuk is expected to announce today that he’ll forego returning to Boston University this fall and will instead sign a pro contract with the Senators. He was selected fourth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Ottawa Senators prospect Brady Tkachuk is expected to turn pro. (Photo via NHL.com)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After months of being dogged by bad news, these reports provide Senators fans with a sliver of hope. Construction of a new arena will kill off the relocation rumors. Tkachuk could be a promising part of the club’s future. If he cracks the lineup, perhaps he can help them bounce back from last season’s poor performance. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Contract negotiations continue between the Vegas Golden Knights and restricted free agent defenseman Shea Theodore. General manager George McPhee remains hopeful of reaching an agreement before training camp opens in mid-September.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights have over $8.6 million in projected salary-cap space so they have plenty of room to re-sign Theodore, their only unsigned free agent. The blueliner is coming off an entry-level contract.

While Theodore’s considered a key part of their future the Golden Knights could be reluctant at this point to ink him to a long-term deal. He could get a two-year bridge contract worth around $3.5-million per season with the promise of a more lucrative deal if he plays up to expectations. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo hopes to be a more physical presence this season. The 21-year-old blueliner has recovered from a broken fibula and added several pounds of muscle this summer. 

NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis examines how the Rangers abandoned their usual offseason script to stick with their young program as their primary tool of rebuilding. 


NHL Rumor Mill – August 6, 2018

NHL Rumor Mill – August 6, 2018

Reviewing Sportsnet’s recent update on this summer’s notable unsigned RFAs in your NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the status of this summer’s noteworthy unsigned restricted free agents.

William Nylander hopes to ink a long-term contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo via NHL Images)

Center William Nylander hopes to ink a long-term extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He said he intends to take it day-by-day and see what happens, adding he hasn’t thought about the possibility of still being unsigned when training camp opens next month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Still plenty of time for Nylander and the Leafs to reach an agreement. Still, if there’s no deal in place when the calendar flips to September, we’ll likely start hearing a lot more speculation over his status. Some observers suggest the Leafs trade Nylander for an upgrade on defense. His name could surface in the trade rumor mill if he’s not re-signed by the time training camp starts in mid-September.  

The Detroit Red Wings and center Dylan Larkin are working on a five- or six-year contract. He’s confident he’ll be signed before training camp begins. The Wings only have around $2.8 million in cap space, meaning they’ll have to shed a salary after signing Larkin to be cap compliant when the season opens in October.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s talk Larkin could get between $5.5 – $6 million annually on his next contract. They’ll get over $3.9 million in cap relief by placing Johan Franzen on LTIR at the start of the season, but as Fox points out, they’ll still have to find a way to free up cap room before then. 

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving doesn’t foresee any difficulties getting recently acquired defenseman Noah Hanifin under contract. The club recently freed up salary-cap space by buying out winger Troy Brouwer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hanifin is the Flames’ only remaining free agent. As per Cap Friendly, they’ve got over $7 million in cap room. The only sticking point here is how much he wants and how much (and for how long) the Flames are willing to pay. I’ve got a feeling he’ll get a long-term deal with an annual cap hit over $5.5 million. 

Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill last week said there was no updates on forward Sam Reinhart’s contract situation. Reinhart’s name surfaced at times last season in trade rumors. Botterill doesn’t view re-signing the young forward as a difficult situation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart exceeded 40 points in each of his three NHL seasons, but he tends to be a streaky scorer. That could lead to him getting a bridge deal. 

Anaheim Ducks center Ondrej Kase is due a significant raise over last season’s $670K cap hit. The Ducks have around $8.7 million in remaining cap space with Nick Ritchie also to re-sign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m guessing Kase gets a two- or three-year contract worth around $3 million per season. 

With just under $5 million in salary-cap space, the Edmonton Oilers could be forced to go with a short-term deal for defenseman Darnell Nurse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring a salary-dumping trade by the Oilers to clear more cap room, Nurse could end up with a two-year contract worth around $4 million annually with the promise of a lucrative long-term agreement down the road. 

Fox wonders if Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey will accept a two-year bridge deal in hopes of landing a more lucrative deal after that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might be the best move for Morrissey and the Jets, who must also re-sign Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor next summer.  

Barring a big trade, defenseman Shea Theodore should be a key part of the Vegas Golden Knights blueline for years. Theodore was mentioned as part of the rumored return in a proposed trade for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, “but those talks have stalled if not disappeared.” Cap space isn’t an issue for the Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Golden Knights could still be interested in Karlsson, recent remarks by GM George McPhee about possibly adding a forward at some point during next season suggests his interests have changed. I also think McPhee is keen to retain Theodore, who should blossom into a reliable top-pairing rearguard. 


Where Are They Now? – NHL Trophy Winners Edition

Where Are They Now? – NHL Trophy Winners Edition

Many of the NHL’s greatest players were winners of the league’s awards honoring performance at a specific position (goaltender, defenseman, defensive forwards) or achievements such as most valuable player. Previous winners of these awards include well-known active players as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as well as Hall of Famers like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr.

Not every player who wins one of the league’s individual awards is a superstar. For some of them, capturing one of those honors proved to be the highlight of their career.  Here’s a look at what several of those players are doing today.

Claude Lemieux. An agitating forward who played on Stanley Cup winners with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche, Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995 as playoff MVP with the Devils. He is now an NHL player agent with 4Sports & Entertainment and lives in Huntington Beach, CA. He became a naturalized American citizen in 2009.

Bill Ranford. An NHL goaltender for 15 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings, Ranford won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1990 backstopping the Oilers to their last Stanley Cup title. For the past 12 years he’s been the goaltending coach for the Los Angeles Kings.

Jose Theodore won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002. (Photo via NHL.com)

Jose Theodore. Winner of the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002 for backstopping an underdog Montreal Canadiens squad into the playoffs, Theodore spent nearly 17 NHL seasons with the Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. He also won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2010. Since retiring in 2013, the former goaltender has appeared as an analyst with TVA Sports and writes a regular column for Le Journal de Montreal.

Jim Carey. “The Net Detective” made a promising NHL debut with the Washington Capitals in 1994-95 and was named to the All-Rookie Team. In Carey’s sophomore season, he took home the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. Soon afterward, injuries and a fading interest in the game would derail his career. After brief stints with the Bruins and St. Louis Blues, he was out of hockey by 1999. Carey is now CEO and president of a medical billing company with offices in Sarasota and Boston.

Jonathan Cheechoo. Tallying 56 goals in 2005-06 with the San Jose Sharks, Cheechoo won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goalscorer. That season proved to be his career peak as injuries subsequently took its toll on his performance. After six seasons with the Sharks, he played his last NHL campaign with the Ottawa Senators in 2009-10. Cheechoo spent nearly four seasons in the AHL followed by four campaigns in the KHL, announcing his retirement in March 2018. He has expressed interest in working with the Sharks organization.

Rick Meagher. An undrafted center out of Boston University, Meagher spent his first six NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Hartford Whalers and New Jersey Devils in the early 1980s. He went on to play six seasons with the St. Louis Blues, winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1990 as the top defensive forward. The following season, however, injuries forced his retirement.A long-time scout with the Blues, Meagher resides in Belleville, Ontario.


Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 5, 2018

Latest on the Golden Knights and another look at the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in your NHL rumor mill.


LAS VEGAS SUN: In the wake of William Karlsson re-signing a one-year, $5.25-million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Granger reports defenseman Shea Theodore is their only remaining free agent. Theodore is coming off his entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. General manager George McPhee hopes to re-sign the young blueliner before the start of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights hope to re-sign defenseman Shea Theodore before the start of next season (Photo via NHL Images).

Granger also reports McPhee hinted at a possible move to bolster his forward lines. “We’re happy where we are,” said the Vegas GM. “If there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the forward position at any time over the next year we will.”

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Despite re-signing Karlsson to a one-year deal and with Theodore expected to re-sign, Ed Graney reports the Golden Knights aren’t any better on paper than they were in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Graney raises some questions, wondering if they’re really convince Malcolm Subban is a capable long-term solution if starter Marc-Andre Fleury becomes sidelined again, if someone like Ryan Carpenter can steal a job, and if career performances by so many players last season could result in a natural regression in 2018-19.

He also wonders if the Golden Knights “would emerge from a handful of reported suitors” interested in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights definitely defied expectations last season. While I think they’re still good enough to be a playoff contender in 2018-19, I doubt they’ll make a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unlike many of McPhee’s peers who might have interest in acquiring Erik Karlsson or a skilled forward, he’s carrying considerable depth in draft picks (stick tap to Cap Friendly) and promising young players that could be used as trade bait. Doing so, however, could mean including the promising Theodore in the package or giving up a top prospect such as Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently updated his list of the NHL’s top-10 remaining unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, though it remains uncertain if he’ll continue his career due to health and family concerns. Prior to the start of this summer’s UFA market, Nash told several teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) that he was sitting out the free-agent frenzy to contemplate his future. 

The remainder of Fox’s list includes defenseman Luca Sbisa (who at one point had reportedly been contacted by the Chicago Blackhawks), blueliner Tobias Enstrom, forward Mark Letestu, forward Mike Cammalleri (who got some interest from Avangard Omsk coach Bob Hartley in bringing him to the KHL), rearguard Alexei Emelin, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, center Nick Shore, winger Scott Hartnell (who recently conceded he could be headed toward retirement) and left wing Benoit Pouliot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Nash, most of the others on this list could face going through professional tryouts during training camp to land new contracts for next season. Some could end up continuing their playing careers overseas. Some, like Hartnell, could be retiring.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Blackhawks have ongoing interest in Sbisa as they still need help on the blueline. The KHL could be the oft-injured Cammalleri’s best option to continue his playing career. Lehtonen might still draw some interest from teams in need of experienced goaltending depth. However, he could be a late-September or early-October signing as clubs evaluate their goalies during training camp and preseason play.