NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2020

Contract talks have broken off between the Canadiens and Brendan Gallagher, some “mutual interest” between the Leafs and Joe Thornton, three key Bruins underwent surgery last month, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Contract talks between Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens have broken off, Gallagher’s agent Gerry Johansson told Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday. The 28-year-old winger is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more about this later this morning in the Rumors section. There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to work out a new contract. Gallagher is considered among the Canadiens’ core players but this report casts early doubt over his long-term future in Montreal.

THE SCORE: cites The Athletic’s James Mirtle reporting of “some mutual interest” between the Toronto Maple Leafs and UFA center Joe Thornton in reaching an agreement on a contract. The discussions are at an early stage. The 41-year-old center is coming off a disappointing 31-point performance in 70 games last season, his worst output over a full season since his NHL debut in 1997-98.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The idea is Thornton would become the Leafs’ third-line center, allowing Alexander Kerfoot to play on the wing. The former Shark is among the greatest playmakers in NHL history and a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. However, the decline in his performance last season should be a concern. The Leafs might be better off looking elsewhere for a short-term third-line center.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and defenseman Charlie McAvoy underwent surgeries in September. Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and is sidelined for four months. Pastrnak had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16 with a five-month recovery period. McAvoy, meanwhile, had a right knee arthroscopy on Sept. 8 and is expected to be ready for training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins will be without Pastrnak and Marchand if the 2020-21 NHL season opens in January.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks signed Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto to one-year contracts. Cap Friendly indicates Marleau and Nieto will each earn $700K.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed goaltender Aaron Dell to a one-year, $800K contract.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Predators signed UFA forward Brad Richardson to a one-year, $1-million contract.

NHLPA: The dates for salary arbitration have been announced:

October 20

Andrew Mangiapane
Anthony DeAngelo
Matthew Grzelcyk

October 21

Ilya Mikheyev

October 22

Connor Brown

October 25

Tyler Bertuzzi

October 26

Linus Ullmark

October 27

Sam Reinhart

October 28

Jake Virtanen

October 30

Joshua Ho-Sang

October 31

Devon Toews
Alexandar Georgiev

November 1

Nicholas Paul

November 2

Gustav Forsling

November 4

Victor Olofsson
Warren Foegele

November 5

Ryan Strome

November 6

Brendan Lemieux
Ryan Pulock

November 7

Christian Jaros

November 8

Chris Tierney
MacKenzie Weegar
Haydn Fleury

OTTAWA SUN: Senators prospect Tim Stuetzle will undergo surgery to repair a broken hand suffered during training camp with the Mannheim Eagles. The recovery time is six-to-eight weeks. Stuetzle was the Senators’ first-round pick (third overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.

TSN: Speaking of the Senators, Eugene Melnyk has filed a defamation lawsuit against Ottawa Sun columnist Rick Gibbons regarding reports claiming the Sens owner was attempting to divert money from a club charity to his own charity and gouging the Ottawa Senators Foundation by charging exorbitant rent. The Sun subsequently published an apology and a correction of errors in Gibbon’s stories.

THE ATHLETIC: Multiple Dallas Stars employees will be furloughed for the second time this year. Team owner Tom Gagliardi is facing mounting financial difficulties as his core businesses (hotels and restaurants) continue to be affected by COVID-19.










NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 13, 2020

A look at the top remaining unrestricted free agents, three potential Canadiens’ trade candidates, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP REMAINING UFAS

SPORTSNET: Winger Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Mikael Granlund and Ilya Kovalchuk, along with defenseman Travis Hamonic top Emily Sadler’s list of the best remaining players in this year’s NHL unrestricted free agent market.

Winger Mike Hoffman is among the best remaining players in this year’s NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hoffman and Dadonov are the best of the bunch but they could end up signing for considerably less than they hoped given the current economic climate. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested clubs are using the market against both wingers to drive down their asking prices.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reported yesterday Granlund was in discussions with multiple teams and is whittling down his list to find the best fit. He doesn’t know if the Blue Jackets are among them.

Centers Erik Haula and Carl Soderberg, left-wingers Anthony Duclair and Andreas Athanasiou, and defenseman Sami Vatanen fill out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All four are on my recent listing of possible bargain signings.

The rest include centers Alex Galchenyuk, Derick Brassard and Joe Thornton, wingers Corey Perry, Colin Wilson, Matt Martin, Patrick Marleau and Conor Sheary and defenseman Zdeno Chara.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see the Stars bringing back Perry on another affordable one-year deal. A recent report claimed the San Jose Sharks could bring back Marleau. Thornton could also be back with the Sharks while Chara is expected to return with the Boston Bruins.

POTENTIAL CANADIENS TRADE CANDIDATES

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens’ signing of winger Tyler Toffoli yesterday leaves the club sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $353K. They’ll have to offload over $1 million to become cap compliant before the start of next season. Trade options could include Jordan Weal ($1.4 million), Paul Byron ($3.4 million) and Joel Armia ($2.6 million).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byron has three seasons left on his contract. TVA Sports noted he has two 20-goal seasons on his resume but his production declined due to injuries over the last two seasons. His cap hit could make him the most difficult to move.

Armia or Weal are more affordable but they probably won’t have as much value as Byron in the trade market. The Canadiens have 14 picks in next year’s draft so perhaps one of those selections could be packaged with one of those players as a sweetener.

The Canadiens also have eight defensemen under NHL contract for next season. Brett Kulak surfaced in recent trade chatter so perhaps there might be a market for him. Kukak is signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $1.85 million.

BRUINS INTERESTED IN WEEGAR?

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites three sources claiming the Bruins have shown interest in MacKenzie Weegar. The rugged 26-year-old defenseman recently filed for salary arbitration. Word around the league is the Panthers have been shopping Weegar for some time.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murphy points out Weegar’s a right-hand shot while the Bruins’ biggest need is a left-shot defenseman. He also wonders how the Bruins will address the departure of Torey Krug.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 10, 2020

The Devils sign Corey Crawford, the Flames land Chris Tanev, the Lightning place Tyler Johnson on waivers, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils last night signed goaltender Corey Crawford to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.9 million. The move came a day after the Devils bought out netminder Cory Schneider.

Corey Crawford signs with the New Jersey Devils (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable move by the Devils to boost their goaltending depth by providing an experienced mentor for Mackenzie Blackwood. I’m surprised that Crawford’s former club, the Chicago Blackhawks, didn’t sign him to a similar deal. Perhaps their offer was less than what he ultimately got on the open market from the Devils.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed defenseman Chris Tanev to a four-year, $18-million contract. Cap Friendly indicates the annual average value is $4.5 million. The deal also includes a modified no-trade clause in which Tanev submits a 10-team no-trade list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the second former Canuck the Flames added via free agency, having signed goaltender Jacob Markstrom yesterday. This deal is one year less than Tanev’s previous contract and slightly higher than his previous AAV ($4.45 million). He’ll replace T.J. Brodie, who signed yesterday with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the decline in Tanev’s performance and his injury history could be cause for concern among Flames fans.

Note: My list of yesterday’s notable unrestricted free agent signings can be found here.

TSN: The Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday placed winger Tyler Johnson on waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A surprising move by the Lightning that suggests a whiff of desperation to shed salary. We’ll learn at noon ET today if any club claims him.

Johnson has a full no-trade clause but it doesn’t prevent him from being placed on waivers. He has four years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $5 million. TSN’s Frank Seravalli wondered if the Detroit Red Wings might claim him, given general manager Steve Yzerman’s ties to Johnson when he was GM of the Lightning.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks re-signed restricted free agent winger Dominik Kubalik to a two-year contract with a $3.7 million AAV and goaltender Malcolm Subban to a two-year extension with an $850K cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kubalik, a Calder Trophy finalist, was coming off his entry-level contract, giving Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman leverage to ink him to an affordable bridge contract. The Blackhawks still need a reliable starting goaltender as Subban is strictly a backup. I expect they’ll address that need via free agency or trade.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Bryan Little won’t play next season on the recommendation of the team’s doctors. He suffered serious head trauma after being struck in the head by a puck during a game last November and hasn’t played since.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are expected to place Little on long-term injury reserve for 2020-21. That will provide them some wiggle room to exceed the salary cap if necessary by the equivalent of his $5.291 million cap hit. However, the greater concern is for Little’s future as an NHL player. This injury could cut short his playing career.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Joe Thornton confirmed he’ll return for his 23rd NHL season. However, he’s in no rush to sign with the San Jose Sharks or another club at the moment. He also indicated he might play in the Swiss League prior to the scheduled Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars are uncertain about the future of defenseman Stephen Johns, who missed the final 23 games of the club’s playoff run. Johns was sidelined for nearly two years by post-traumatic headaches before returning to action for 17 games last season.

NEWSDAY: New York Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows violated terms of the AHL/Professional Hockey Players’ Association performance-enhancing substances program. The matter has been dealt with and he will be allowed to play whenever the NHL or AHL are able to start their seasons.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 12, 2020

Could the Rangers shop the first-overall pick? Are changes coming for the Penguins? What’s the latest on the Leafs and Oilers? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WILL THE RANGERS LISTEN TO OFFERS FOR FIRST-OVERALL PICK?

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton will spend the coming weeks deciding if he’ll use the first-overall pick to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere or shop it for the No. 2 center his club badly needs.

Will the New York Rangers keep the first-overall pick and select Alexis Lafreniere? (NHL.com)

The Rangers already have left-wingers Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, making it difficult for Lafreniere to be an immediate fit in their roster. Garrioch expects Gorton will find a place for the youngster unless he gets an offer too good to refuse. He believes the Ottawa Senators (with the third and fifth overall picks), Montreal Canadiens, and Detroit Red Wings could come calling.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators, Canadiens, and Red Wings lack the type of center the Rangers would want as part of the return. I think Gorton will listen to offers but he might not get one to his liking. He could also surprise us by taking Quinton Byfield instead of Lafreniere with that pick, but I believe he’ll stick with the time-honored adage that you take the best available player.

CHANGES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford indicated changes are coming during his end-of-season press conference yesterday.

Team sources indicate there could be an assistant coach change at some point this week. Rutherford indicated no changes are coming to the roster core. He expressed disappointment in defenseman Justin Schultz’s performance, an indication perhaps the pending free agent won’t be re-signed.

The Penguins GM also spoke about goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. The pair are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Rutherford acknowledged it would be difficult to keep both. He also feels his roster needs to get younger.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Penguins are leaning toward keeping this year’s first-round pick (15th overall) and sending next season’s first-round selection to the Minnesota Wild. As per conditions in the Jeff Zucker trade last February, the Penguins have seven days following the lottery to reach a decision.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s comments should put to rest recent suggestions that Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang should hit the trade block. Unless he can free up salary-cap space, he’ll have to choose between Murray or Jarry. I expect he’ll take the younger, affordable option with Jarry.

It won’t be surprising if Schultz doesn’t return. He hasn’t been the same since fracturing his leg last season.

LATEST ON THE LEAFS

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas must decide if he’ll re-sign goaltender Frederik Andersen to a long-term deal given his recent history of giving up soft goals in the playoffs.

Do the Leafs really want to tie into Andersen for the long term? Can they afford to? Do people really think the Leafs will turn into Stanley Cup contenders if Dubas acquires Matt Murray?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To answer those questions in order: No, they shouldn’t. No, they can’t. No, they won’t. Andersen has a year left on his contract. Unless better options appear via the trade market or free agency (provided Dubas can free up sufficient cap space), best to ride it out with Andersen for one more year and see what becomes available during next season or next summer.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports his understanding of Dubas’ no-trade promise after re-signing William Nylander last season was that it was solely for the immediate aftermath of the agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever Dubas promised Nylander, the young winger could soon find out that a general manager’s promises are easily broken for the good of the team or the GM’s ongoing employment.

Friedman also believes San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton could be on the Leafs’ radar, depending on what happens with Jason Spezza.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All due respect to Thornton, who’s had a wonderful career, but he’s well past his best-before date. Besides, the Leafs already had an aging former Sharks on their roster in Patrick Marleau and it cost them their 2020 first-round pick to get rid of the final year of his contract. They don’t need to repeat that mistake. Yes, I know, they could get Thornton to agree to a one-year, bonus-laden deal, but he’s not going to make the Leafs a better team next season. 

UPDATE ON THE OILERS

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Terry Jones reports Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated he’s got some decisions to make going forward after his club was eliminated from the qualifying round. Noting Holland spoke about the flat salary cap for next season, Jones speculates Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Smith, and James Neal might not be back.

Jones also thinks one of the Oilers’ top-four defensemen other than Ethan Bear could be shopped. He guesses Adam Larsson could be available in a “semi-major trade.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Holland could decide not to qualify the winger’s rights, making him a UFA. The Oilers GM could then attempt to sign him to a more affordable contract, or simply look for a better option elsewhere.

The 38-year-old Smith is no longer an effective NHL starting goalie. The Oilers need a better option to split the duties with the erratic Mikko Koskinen. Neal is signed through 2022-23 and his age (32), the cap hit ($5.27 million) and offensive inconsistency will be difficult to move. A buyout is possible here.

Larsson was acquired four years ago from New Jersey for Taylor Hall. Holland might have to bundle him with a draft pick or prospect or pick up part of his $4.16-million cap hit for next season. Larsson also has a modified no-trade clause.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2020

Check out the latest on Joe Thornton and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: During the “Headlines” intermission segment on Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast, Elliotte Friedman reported Joe Thornton could play some games in Switzerland this fall before returning to the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (Photo via NHL Images).

“Every August, he goes to Switzerland. We know the Sharks won’t be playing until December,” Friedman said. “The NHL and NHLPA have allowed players to sign overseas with clauses to come back then. Does Joe Thornton sign overseas in Switzerland to play and be ready, in better shape even, to return to the NHL for his 23rd season?”

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz followed up on Friedman’s report:

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton, 41, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s expressed interest in continuing his NHL career. It could be with the Sharks on a one-year, bonus-laden deal. They’re pressed for cap space, carrying over $66 million invested in 13 players for next season. Nevertheless, if there’s a way to bring back Thornton for another season, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will probably consider it.

Playing overseas during the NHL’s off-season might not be a bad idea for some of the players on the seven non-playoff clubs. Their last meaningful games were in mid-March when the pandemic derailed the regular season, and they’re now facing a longer-than-usual off-season period. If they can find teams willing to sign them to one-year contracts with NHL out-clauses, some of them (including Thornton) could pursue that option.

Jake Virtanen’s future with the Vancouver Canucks remains uncertain.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games, Virtanen seemed to be enjoying a long-awaited breakout performance this season. Nevertheless, it seems like the Canucks coaching staff has grown disenchanted with his efforts.

The 23-year-old winger has been criticized for inconsistency and indifferent defensive play. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. With the Canucks looking to shed salary to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and perhaps Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev, Virtanen could be a trade candidate. 










NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 12, 2020

Check out recent speculation on the Blackhawks, Ducks, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has stayed in touch with his pending free agents. However, he hasn’t spoken much about their pending free agency.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (Photo via NHL Images).

​Re-signing Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome are on Bowman’s to-do list but he can’t get into negotiations until he knows what next season’s salary cap will be.

In a mailbag segment, Lazerus was asked who he felt would be the Blackhawks’ starting goalie next season. He still believes it will be Crawford, who badly wants to remain in Chicago and is coming off a strong season.

Making the money work will be difficult, especially with Kubalik and Strome to re-sign. Nevertheless, Crawford would be a better option than most of this year’s pending UFA goalies and not as expensive as Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks don’t have much choice but to re-sign Crawford. They don’t have anyone in their system ready to step in as their full-time starter. Finding a suitable replacement will be expensive. Perhaps Bowman inks the 35-year-old Crawford to a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $4 million.

Asked if the Blackhawks should trade Strome, Lazerus believes it would be a mistake to move the 23-year-old center. He envisions Strome becoming the Hawks No. 2 center behind Kirby Dach in four or five years while Jonathan Toews moves into the third-line center role.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome’s production dropped this season (38 points in 58 games) after tallying 51 points in the same number of games with the Hawks last season. Lazerus suggests he’s still scarred by his experience with the Arizona Coyotes and could take a little less to stay where he’s happy and getting lots of playing time.

Strome is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Bowman will likely use that to leverage an affordable short-term bridge deal.

UPDATES ON THE DUCKS AND SHARKS

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently did his postmortems of the 2019-20 Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

Larkin doesn’t expect the rebuilding Ducks will be adding any expensive veterans, especially with their limited salary-cap space for 2020-21. He anticipates they’ll keep trying to shed salary and make room for younger players.

The Sharks, meanwhile, could see around one-third of their roughly $15 million in salary-cap space go toward re-signing Kevin Labanc to a make-good contract after he took a one-year bargain-basement deal last summer. They’ll also have to decide if they’ll bring back Joe Thornton for one more year. If they re-sign the 41-year-old center, it won’t leave much room to chase higher-end UFAs, especially a No. 2 goaltender. Larkin also wondered if they might consider buying out starting goalie Martin Jones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Labanc has arbitration rights this time around, so GM Doug Wilson must either pay him a suitable raise or trade him. Labanc’s stats declined this season but that could be tied to the Sharks’ overall poor performance.

The cap hit for buying out Jones is $2.875 million for 2020-21, $1.875 million for 2021-22, $2.375 million in 2022-23, and $2.875 million for 2023-24 before dropping to $1.625 million annually through 2027-28. While it’s not expensive, it’s still a long time to be carrying that much dead cap space.