NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.

NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.

Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.

The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.

The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.

TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.

Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2021

The fallout from the Carolina Hurricanes signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens, an update on Jake Gardiner, player milestones to watch this season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell spoke to the media yesterday about his club successfully signing away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell (NHL Images).

Waddell said the Hurricanes weren’t surprised that the Canadiens opted not to match the one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet. He denied revenge for the Habs’ unsuccessful attempt to sign Sebastian Aho in 2019 was the motivation behind the Kotkaniemi offer. Waddell also dismissed the club’s PR staff trolling the Canadiens over the signing as merely a marketing ploy to keep their fans engaged.

The Hurricanes GM said he initially attempted to acquire Kotkaniemi via trade and decided several days later to tender an offer sheet. Waddell indicated he hasn’t had contract extension discussions with the 21-year-old forward and his agent. The earliest they can re-sign him is in January.

Asked where Kotkaniemi would play this season, Waddell indicated the 21-year-old will probably start at left wing. Although the Hurricanes now sit above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $1.5 million, they intend to place defenseman Jake Gardiner ($4.05 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve. Waddell indicated Gardiner will undergo hip and back surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Kotkaniemi also talked about his new contract with the Hurricanes. He considers it a great opportunity and felt confident his new club has trust in him. He noted the presence of fellow Finns Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and considers it an honor to play for a potential Stanley Cup contender.

Asked about his time with the Canadiens, Kotkaniemi acknowledged there were “ups and downs” but overall felt he had a good run in Montreal. However, he did say he thought his development with the Habs could’ve gone better.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The revenge angle keeps getting played up in the media but I think that’s just a small factor here. The Hurricanes were seeking a young forward who could play center or wing. They had an interest in Kotkaniemi, tried to trade for him and when that didn’t work not only went the offer-sheet route but gave the Habs a heads-up as to their intentions.

PuckPedia speculates the Hurricanes could maximize their long-term injury reserve space to the full $4.05 million of Gardiner’s cap hit by demoting two players to put them just under the cap ceiling before the start of the season. They’ll then put Gardiner on LTIR. No word yet on how long he’ll be sidelined but the 31-year-old blueliner could be sidelined for the season.

A contract extension for Kotkaniemi will be decided by his performance this season. It would cost them $6.1 million to qualify his rights but the two sides could agree to a long-term deal for a lower annual average value.

Kotkaniemi’s comments about his development in Montreal and his willingness to accept the Hurricanes offer had some observers suggesting the Canadiens must ensure that issue doesn’t recur with their other younger players. Whether the current management shares that view remains to be seen.

SI.COM: Jason Chen looks at several player milestones to watch in 2021-22. Joe Thornton has an opportunity to move into third place overall for games played, Ryan Getzlaf, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Spezza could reach 1,000 points while Alex Ovechkin is 36 goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third place (766) on the all-time goal-scoring list.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Former Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski sold his Muirfield, Ohio home for $3.75 million.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2021

The Blues express interest in Zdeno Chara, the factor that enticed Joe Thornton to the Florida Panthers, breakout candidates for 2021-22 and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford reports a league source said the St. Louis Blues expressed interest in unrestricted free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara. The former Boston Bruins captain spent last season with the Washington Capitals.

Free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara (NHL Images).

Rutherford believes the Blues landing Chara is a long shot. A source said the 44-year-old blueliner has yet to decide where he’ll play this season. His family remains in Boston and he intends to remain close to them this season. The option remains for Chara to return to the Capitals for another season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland tweeted he was told the Blues aren’t an option for Chara. If he plays, his focus is to stay in the East to be close to his family.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers general manager Bill Zito credited his players for helping to lure Joe Thornton to the club. The 42-year-old center recently signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Thornton cited how good the team looks and how well they played last season. He believes they’re close to Stanley Cup contention. Zito also said Panthers coach Joel Quenneville and Roberto Luongo spoke with Thornton.

ESPN.COM: Blues winger Pavel Buchnevich, Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland and Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark are among Greg Wyshynski’s breakout candidates for 2021-22.

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Cole Sillinger to a three-year entry-level contract. Son of former NHL center Mike Sillinger, the 18-year-old was selected 12th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights will be participating in next month’s Rookie Faceoff tournament. Their rookie squad will face off against those from the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings from Sept. 17-20 in Arizona. There was no tournament last season because of the shortened schedule and lack of a preseason.

SPORTSNET: Wayne Gretzky recently launches his first NFT collectibles on the new DraftKings platform.










NHL Morning Coffee Headllines – August 14, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headllines – August 14, 2021

Auston Matthews undergoes wrist surgery, Joe Thornton signs with the Panthers, start times for the 2021-22 season revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews could miss the early part of training camp next month after undergoing wrist surgery on Friday. The procedure was deemed necessary after Matthews experienced discomfort from increasing his on-ice training schedule this week. The club didn’t reveal which wrist was operated on. Leafs training camp opens on Sep. 22.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was plagued by wrist and hand ailments throughout last season.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton signed a one-year, $750K contract with the Florida Panthers. He had 20 points in 44 games last season with the Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After 1,680 games, the 42-year-old Thornton is still chasing his first Stanley Cup. This could be his last opportunity. The Panthers are a very good team that has a legitimate shot at Cup contention this season. Thornton will bring a wealth of experience and leadership to their roster but it will be interesting to see where he fits into their regular lineup.

NHL.COM: The league has announced the start times for the 2021-22 season. It begins on Oct 12 with the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their Stanley Cup banner at Amelie Arena before facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 pm ET. At 10 PM ET, the Seattle Kraken will play their first-ever NHL contest when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted the NHL sent a memo updating its vaccination requirements to its 32 teams. “Any person whose job, role, position, or access entails them to have personal interactions (within 12 feet) with Club Hockey Operations personnel (including Players) are required to be Fully Vaccinated.” He also indicated the NHL/NHLPA protocols for the players are not yet completed.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Zac Rinaldo to a one-year, two-way contract.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: The Kraken signed defenseman Cale Fleury and winger Carsen Twarynski to a pair of one-year, two-way contracts each worth $750K at the NHL level.

NHL.COM: The Anaheim Ducks signed Mason McTavish to an entry-level contract. The 18-year-old center was the third-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

MLIVE.COM: The New York Rangers have hired former Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin as their assistant general manager and GM of their AHL affiliate in Hartford.

WINNIPEG SUN: On the 40th anniversary of the day they first signed Dale Hawerchuk, the Jets announced they will honor the late hockey legend with a statue. A section of a downtown street and an annual pond-hockey tournament will be named after Hawerchuk.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2021

The Leafs face an interesting summer after another first-round exit plus the latest Seth Jones speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LEAFS?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski believes Toronto Maple Leafs management shouldn’t panic and make any rash moves following yet another first-round playoff exit. He points to how the Washington Capitals got sent into “a philosophical crisis” for several seasons after falling to another underdog Montreal Canadiens squad in 2010.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner become a trade candidate this summer? (NHL Images)

Wyshynski feels the Leafs’ window of opportunity remains wide open. He suggests they rethink their supporting cast by opting instead for players with speed, rather than bring in those with experience as they did this season. He also proposes they look to this summer’s trade and free-agent markets for someone to share the goalie duties with Jack Campbell.

Of their eight unrestricted free agents, Wyshynski believes they’ll bring back Zach Hyman given his contributions to the first line.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox wondered where the Leafs go from here. He thinks forwards Hyman and Jason Spezza are worth re-signing, as well as defenseman Zach Bogosian if he’d accept another one-year, $1 million contract. They could lose center Alex Kerfoot to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.

If the affordable Campbell ($1.65 million) remains their starting goalie, Fox believes general manager Kyle Dubas will have sufficient cap space to assemble a new supporting cast around their star players.

THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel doesn’t see the Leafs trading Auston Matthews. John Tavares’ no-movement clause takes him off the table as well. That leaves Mitch Marner and William Nylander. While both would fetch considerable returns, they would be difficult to replace on the roster.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Brian Witt wonders what the future holds for former San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton after his quest to win the Stanley Cup this year with the Leafs fell short. Thornton turns 42 on July 2 and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Witt wonders if he’ll retire or return for a 24th NHL season. If he can’t land with another Cup contender, perhaps he’d consider returning to the Sharks if they approached him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Wyshynski. Leafs management must avoid overreacting in this situation. They still have a talented core of mostly young talent to reload around and try again next season. They should build up the speed and skill among their forwards and defense, and bring in a reliable backup for Campbell.

Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have almost $69 million invested in 14 players next season. They’ll get an additional $3.5 million if Kerfoot is selected by the Kraken. Should re-sign Hyman, Spezza and Bogosian to affordable deals, they’ll still have to go bargain hunting to address their needs through trades and free agency.

Trading Marner or Nylander could help to address some of the Leafs roster needs. As Siegel pointed out, however, moving either guy will create another roster issue to address.

Thornton has probably played his final NHL game. His lack of speed was apparent against the Canadiens and I don’t think he can be effective over a full 82-game schedule. I understand his desire to win a Stanley Cup, but I don’t see him landing with a contender now. I also doubt the Sharks will bring him back for a last hurrah after seeing how diminished Patrick Marleau was this season.

LATEST SETH JONES SPECULATION

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin examined several possible trade destinations for Seth Jones after the defenseman informed the Columbus Blue Jackets he intends to test next summer’s free-agent market.

He feels the best hockey fits would be the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Winnipeg Jets, with the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils as possible sleepers. The Los Angeles Kings could be the best all-around fit for Jones, though he plays the same side on defense as Drew Doughty.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports two clubs reached out to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen after the news broke over the weekend of Jones’ intentions. He expects Kekalainen to receive a flood of calls this week from other clubs. The Kings could be the early favorite. Portzline expects the Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens could be major players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An elite defenseman available in the trade market doesn’t happen every summer. Jones will draw plenty of interest but it’ll come down to which teams have the depth in tradeable assets and the cap space to potentially sign him to a new contract. Indeed, Jones’ willingness to sign an extension with the acquiring club could be the key factor determining his trade destination.

The Kings certainly seem the best fit in that regard but they could prefer adding a top-four left-side defenseman unless Doughty or Jones is willing to play second-pairing minutes. The Blackhawks would have the cap room once they work out the long-term injury reserve gymnastics for all-but-retired Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw.

The Canadiens have plenty of draft picks, prospects and promising youngsters to draw upon for trade bait but I don’t see them pursuing him unless he commits to a long-term extension. With over $69 million invested in 18 players, they can afford his current $5.4 million cap hit but it would leave them overcrowded on the right side with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry already there.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 29, 2021

Maple Leafs clinch a playoff spot, Joe Thornton reaches an assists milestone, Connor McDavid has another multi-point game and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in the Scotia North Division to clinch a playoff spot by dropping the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Joe Thorton reached a milestone by collecting his 1,100th career NHL assist while Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 35th goal of the season. The Leafs sit atop the division with 67 points while the Canadiens are in fourth place with 51 points. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced Jonathan Drouin was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is just the seventh player in league history to reach 1,100 assists. Paul Coffey sits in sixth place with 1,135. With 1,524 points, Thornton is only seven behind Coffey (1,531) for 13th on the all-time list.

Drouin’s faced criticism from fans and pundits (myself included) for his play this season. We don’t know why he’s taken this leave of absence and it’s none of our business. Here’s hoping he gets whatever assistance is needed to help him cope with his situation and return to action.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected three assists in a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie each had a goal and an assist as the Oilers (60 points) sit three points ahead of the Jets for second place in the North. The Jets have lost five straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid has a league-leading 84 points with nine games left in the season. He’s scoring at a pace not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. At his current rate of production, he could still reach 100 points. 

The Vegas Golden Knights extended their winning streak to 10 games by downing the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty led the way with three points each for the Golden Knights (72 points), opening a six-point lead over the second-place Avalanche in the Honda West Division.

Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas rallied the St. Louis Blues over the Minnesota Wild 4-3. Hoffman scored twice for the Blues (50 points) as they opened a three-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for fourth place in the West. The Wild (65 points) saw their seven-game win streak snapped. They remain one point behind the Avalanche.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they dropped a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks. Evander Kane tallied his 20th goal of the season.

The Ottawa Senators rode a four-goal second period to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Brady Tkachuk led the way for the Senators with a “Gordie Howe hat trick”.

Cam Fowler scored the game-winner as the Anaheim Ducks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The Ducks, however, are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Kings center Quinton Byfield recorded four shots on goal in his NHL debut.

THE SCORE: Former NHL coach Gerard Gallant was named head coach of Team Canada at the 2021 World Championships.