NHL Rumor Mill – June 9, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 9, 2021

Dougie Hamilton’s contract status is the Hurricanes’ offseason priority, the Kings seek two top-six forwards, and the latest on the Rangers’ search for a head coach in today’s rumor mill.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE HURRICANES?

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan considers it crucial for the Carolina Hurricanes to re-sign Dougie Hamilton, pointing out their defense is built around him and Jaccob Slavin. The 27-year-old blueliner is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (NHL Images).

Hamilton’s outplayed his current $5.75 million annual cap hit. While there’s mutual interest in a new deal, the two sides tabled contract negotiations until after this season. Kaplan speculates he could get as much as $8.5 million per season on the open market but the Hurricanes could be uncomfortable going that high.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock isn’t optimistic about the Hurricanes’ chances of re-signing Hamilton. He believes the rearguard has “almost certainly played his last game” for the Canes. The same goes for pending UFAs such as Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Petr Mrazek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary cap could limit the number of teams willing to get into a bidding war for Hamilton’s services in this summer’s free-agent market. Nevertheless, there will be a team that will pay him over $8 million annually if the Hurricanes won’t do it.

The emergence of rookie goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic likely spells the end of Mrazek’s tenure with the Hurricanes. James Reimer is also a UFA this summer but it wouldn’t be surprising if he returned as Nedeljkovic’s backup.

Kaplan also considers re-signing head coach Rod Brind’Amour a priority. Sources indicate the two sides are believed to have the framework of a deal in place. However, Brind’Amour also wants his three assistant coaches taken care of as well. She also believes they could lose Brady Skjei, Warren Foegele or Morgan Geekie to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeCock believes Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon would be insane to let Brind’Amour depart. I can see Hamilton hitting the free-agent market but not Brind’Amour, who’d be quickly snapped up by another club.

KINGS SEEKING TWO TOP-SIX FORWARDS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Los Angeles Kings could attempt to acquire two top-six forwards via this summer’s trade or free-agent markets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s no indication as to who the Kings could target. Unrestricted free agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boston’s Taylor Hall, Toronto’s Zach Hyman, Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz, Colorado’s Brandon Saad, and the New York Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri.

I spoke with John Hoven of the Kings’ site Mayor’s Manor yesterday about Dreger’s report. He believes they’re seeking established scorers around 27 years old on short-term contracts of two-three years.

That would mean they won’t become a suitor for Buffalo Sabres’ center Jack Eichel. Maybe they’d have an interest in Eichel’s teammate Sam Reinhart? We’ll find out who’s on their radar in the coming weeks.

LATEST ON THE RANGERS COACHING SEARCH

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Gerard Gallant remains the favorite to become the new head coach of the Rangers. However, general manager Chris Drury is waiting to see if there is fallout from the second round of the playoffs that could make another candidate or two available.

Brooks believes the Rangers will watch Rod Brind’Amour’s contract negotiations with the Hurricanes. It’s believed those two sides were discussing a deal worth $1.8 million annually. Brind’Amour could be in line for $4 million per season with the Rangers but a source told Brooks he’d become the Seattle Kraken’s top choice if he goes to market.

The Blueshirts are also monitoring Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets and Bruce Cassidy’s with the Boston Bruins. There’s talk Jared Bednar’s job as coach of the Colorado Avalanche could be in jeopardy if they fall to the Golden Knights but it’s not clear if he’d become a candidate for the Rangers’ job.

Former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet remains a viable candidate after creating a favorable impression with Drury following two interviews with the Rangers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant is probably atop most coaching wish lists this summer. He’ll land an NHL head-coaching gig this summer, be it the Rangers or another club. Brind’Amour would also be pursued by a number of clubs if the Hurricanes are foolish enough to let him walk.

Maurice has been the Jets’ bench boss for seven seasons but there’s no indication the Jets intend to shake things up behind the bench. I don’t think Cassidy will lose his job if the Bruins fall to the Islanders.

Bednar’s done a fine job in Colorado but his coaching of the Avs has come under criticism during their current series with the Golden Knights. It’ll be interesting to see what GM Joe Sakic does if his club fails to advance.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 26, 2021

The Leafs and Hurricanes are on the verge of advancing to the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Tuukka Rask and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the verge of winning their first playoff series in 17 years after blanking the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 in Game 4 of their opening-round series. Alexander Kerfoot and Alex Galchenyuk each had three points, William Nylander tallied his fourth goal in as many games, Joe Thornton tallied his first playoff goal as a Leaf, and Jack Campbell kicked out 32 shots for his first NHL playoff shutout. The Leafs can wrap things up in Game 5 on Thursday in Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the third straight game, the Leafs took control in the second period. They’ve done a fine job nullifying the Canadiens’ popgun offense and they’re getting more production from their secondary scorers as this series goes on.

The Habs have the depth to be a better team than what we’ve seen in this series and most of this season. However, their coaching staff doesn’t seem to know how to get the best out of them. Part of that could be due to pressure they’re getting from their desperate general manager.

Even if the Canadiens were playing better, they still couldn’t match the offensive depth the Leafs bring to bear in this series. While Austin Matthews was kept off the scoreboard in three games and Mitch Marner in two games, William Nylander has proven to be the biggest Hab killer in this series.

An overtime goal by Jordan Staal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of their first-round series. Martin Necas scored two goals for Carolina while Yakov Trenin tallied twice for the Predators. Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin returned to the lineup following a three-game absence and collected an assist. With a 3-2 series lead, the Hurricanes can end this series in Nashville on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes will have to become the first team in this series to win a road game if they hope to wrap this up on Thursday.

SPORTSNET: Alex Ovechkin could become an unrestricted free agent this summer but the 35-year-old left winger wants to remain with the Washington Capitals. “I’m confident, we still have time,” said the Capitals captain. “Obviously, I want to finish my career here, I’m pretty sure we will do something.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Capitals owner Ted Leonsis also wants Ovechkin to finish his career in Washington. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal they can hammer out and how long it takes to get it done.

NHL.COM: Boston Bruins president Cam Neely said management and Tuukka Rask have agreed to table the goaltender’s contract talks until after the playoffs. The 34-year-old Rask is due to become a UFA this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask understands he’s not getting a long-term extension given his age. The sticking point could be salary. He’s earning an annual average value of $7 million on his current deal. He could point to his performance as justification for maintaining that annual salary. He backstopped the Bruins to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, was a finalist last year for the Vezina Trophy, and helped them advance to the second round of this year’s playoffs.

THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler joked about taking a Kris Russell slapshot to the groin during Game 4 of his club’s first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers. “I’ve got three beautiful kids, we’re not having anymore, so what the hell,” he joked with reporters following the Jets’ series-clinching 4-3 triple-overtime victory.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ballsy guy, that Wheeler. The Jets captain left the game briefly in obvious pain after blocking that shot but returned to play in all three overtime periods.

NEW YORK POST: New York Islanders winger Oliver Wahlstrom could be sidelined for Game 5 tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He suffered an apparent right-knee injury following a collision with Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson in Game 4.

TSN: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon and defenseman Ryan McDonagh received fines from the NHL department of player safety for their actions during Game 5 against the Florida Panthers. Maroon was fined over $3,800.00 for unsportsmanlike conduct while McDonagh was fined $5,000.00 for cross-checking Panthers forward Mason Marchment.

NEW YORK POST: Wayne Gretzky has stepped down as vice-chairman of the Edmonton Oilers and is reportedly joining TNT as a lead hockey analyst starting next season.

The New York Rangers interviewed former Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet for their vacant head-coaching position. The Blueshirts already interviewed former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant, who is considered the leading candidate for the job.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 10, 2021

The Flames stay alive in the North Division playoff chase, John Tortorella parts ways with the Blue Jackets, Rick Tocchet leaves the Coyotes, plus the latest suspensions and fines in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames kept their playoff hopes alive by thumping the Ottawa Senators 6-1. Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each had a goal and two assists as the Flames (49 points) moved to within eight points of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Scotia North Division.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary holds two games in hand over Montreal, who have two games remaining in their schedule. However, the Canadiens need just one point to clinch.

A two-goal performance by Alex DeBrincat gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. DeBrincat has 31 goals and 54 points in 51 games.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen released a statement yesterday indicating John Tortorella won’t be returning as head coach. The decision was a mutual one. Tortorella’s contract expires after this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline leaked this story yesterday hours before Kekalainen made it official. Tortorella departs the Jackets as the most successful coach in franchise history, winning the second of his Jack Adams Awards for his efforts in turning the Jackets into a playoff club in 2016-17. They reached the playoffs four times during his six seasons behind their bench, winning their first-ever playoff series in 2019. I’ll have more about the Jackets in the Rumors section.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes and Rick Tocchet mutually agreed to part ways. Tocchet was their head coach for four seasons, during which the club underwent a change of ownership in 2019 and a change in management last when GM John Chayka suddenly departed on the eve of the postseason.  His contract was expiring after this season. The Coyotes reached the playoffs last season, upsetting the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round before falling in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche.

SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon received a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct during Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers. Brandon Montour of the Panthers was fined $5,000.00 for spearing Maroon while teammate MacKenzie Weegar was fined $5,000.00 for high-sticking Maroon’s teammate Mathieu Joseph.

The NHL’s department of player safety fined Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson $1,000.00 for a dangerous trip on Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares on Saturday.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2021

Check out the latest on the Blue Jackets, Canucks, Hurricanes, and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline recently reported on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski’s recent decision to change agents. He has a year remaining on his contract but changing agents suggests he wants to open contract discussions this summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would coincide with the contract talks expected this summer for Seth Jones, Werenski’s defense partner. Jones is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Werenski, meanwhile, will become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’ll cost $7 million just to qualify his rights. The Jackets ownership will have to dig deep for the big bucks to keep their top-two defensemen in Columbus.

Portzline also believes Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must evaluate his current centermen before going shopping for one via trade or free agency. Max Domi, Jack Roslovic, and Alexandre Texier struggled in that position this season. Portzline doesn’t see Kekalainen adding three centers this summer but wonders how many the GM feels he needs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Portzline pointed out, Kekalainen might be lucky to pry away a prominent center from another team. I expect he’ll try to add one experienced center and hope for improvement from Domi, Roslovic and Texier next season, perhaps with a new coach behind the bench if John Tortorella doesn’t return.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Kekalainen will try his best to bring in a top-line center for winger Patrik Laine next season. That would be a costly undertaking during the best of seasons. It could prove more difficult under a flattened salary cap.

Boston’s David Krejci and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the best centers in this summer’s UFA market. At 35, Krejci is at the tail end of his career and best suited for second-line duty. Nugent-Hopkins is a versatile two-way forward but I don’t see him as a first-line center.

Cap Friendly shows the Jackets have $56.5 million invested in 16 players for 2021-22. Kekalainen could target a cap-strapped club trying to shed salary. However, re-signing Laine (an RFA with arbitration rights this summer) will bite deeply into that cap space, perhaps as much as $8 million. It’ll take $7.5 million to qualify his right.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Vancouver Canucks haven’t put a new offer on the table for head coach Travis Green. He wants to stay and the Canucks want to keep him. Green is earning $1 million per season, which is in the lower third among NHL head coaches. LeBrun speculates it could take around $2.5 million to get it done.

Darren Dreger reports the Carolina Hurricanes hope to get head coach Rod Brind’Amour under contract before the playoffs begin. Management seems confident it will get a deal done soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour has turned the Hurricanes into a Stanley Cup contender in just three seasons. They’re on the verge of winning their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.

Dreger also reports Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet could be moving on at the end of this season. His sources indicated Tocchet is more likely to test the open market this summer.

AFTONBLADET: Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could return to HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League after 14 NHL seasons. Hjalmarsson, 33, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He spent three seasons with HV71 before starting his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-08.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report doesn’t rule out Hjalmarsson staying in the NHL if he gets an offer he can’t resist or if the tax situation makes it difficult for him to play in Sweden this autumn.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 1, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we take a look at the recent speculation over the futures of several head coaches.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun recently examined what the future could hold for several NHL coaches on expiring contracts or holding interim roles.

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour (NHL.com).

LeBrun believes the Carolina Hurricanes will sign Rod Brind’Amour to a new contract, citing team owner Tom Dundon’s recent reiteration that a deal will get done. His next contract could be worth over $2 million per season but reaching an agreement isn’t a slam dunk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported the negotiations between the Hurricanes and Brind’Amour were more of a grind than expected. Like LeBrun, Friedman doesn’t see Brind’Amour moving on but the talks turned out to be more of a challenge.

I’ll be shocked if the Hurricanes fail to re-sign Brind’Amour. It’s no coincidence they rose to become a league powerhouse during his tenure behind the bench. Letting him walk would be a huge blunder on their part.

LeBrun chided the Vancouver Canucks for allowing head coach Travis Green to enter this season on an expiring contract as it garnered unwanted media attention. He believes they want to bring him back and suggested there could be news on that front sooner rather than later.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman also weighed in on Green’s contract status, saying he expects negotiations will get serious soon. Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s most recent comments indicated there was nothing new to report. Perhaps those discussions pick up later this month once the regular season ends.

Turning to the Arizona Coyotes, LeBrun speculates general manager Bill Armstrong could replace Rick Tocchet with his own bench boss. Armstrong inherited Tocchet when he took over last fall as GM.

As for the Detroit Red Wings, LeBrun doesn’t know if Jeff Blashill will return or not. Blashill has earned the opportunity to return but there could also be time for a fresh voice behind the bench.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tocchet and Blashill did the best they could in difficult situations with rebuilding clubs. They’ve earned the right to return but their respective general managers could see things differently. They shouldn’t have much difficulty finding other NHL coaching gigs if they depart from their current jobs.

Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t tip his hand as to what’s in store for head coach John Tortorella in a recent interview with LeBrun. This could come down to what Kekalainen feels is right as much as what Tortorella feels like doing. It could be headed for a split.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been some speculation suggesting Tortorella could test the market this summer. I think the Jackets are ready for a change behind the bench. While “Torts” did a good job with them through most of his tenure it seemed like the players were getting weary of his system this year. Wingers Patrik Laine and Max Domi struggled throughout this season, raising more questions about Tortorella’s future in Columbus.

The Seattle Kraken and Buffalo Sabres are searching for a head coach. Gerard Gallant would be an obvious choice for the Kraken. Brind’Amour, Tocchet or Green could also fit the criteria.

If the Montreal Canadiens reach the playoffs, Dominique Ducharme could have his interim tag lifted.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun noted Kraken GM Ron Francis wanted to be patient making his coaching selection to see who might become available after this season. Sabres GM Kevyn Adams seems to be following suit.

I still think Gallant would be the best choice for the Kraken but Brind’Amour could jump to the top of the list if he and the Hurricanes fail to work out a deal. Francis and Brind’Amour were teammates and associated during their days in Carolina.

Making the playoffs might not be enough for Ducharme to become the Canadiens’ full-time bench boss. They’ll have to at least win their opening-round series to make that happen. Getting swept by the Leafs could spell the end of Ducharme’s tenure and perhaps that of Marc Bergevin as the Habs’ GM.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 17, 2020

A milestone night for Alex Ovechkin and Patrice Bergeron, Dougie Hamilton suffers a serious leg injury, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick carried his club to a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ovechkin tied Mike Gartner by starting his NHL career with 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons. He also needed four stitches after being clipped in the mouth by a high stick from Devils winger Miles Wood in the first period. With 689 goals, Ovechkin is one shy of Mario Lemieux for 10th on the all-time list.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has reach the 30-goal plateau for the 15th consecutive season (Photo via NHL Images).

Patrice Bergeron tallied his 20th goal of the season as the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Bergeron has reached 20 goals in seven straight seasons. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug got into a rare tussle by dropping the gloves with Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist. Sidney Crosby tallied the lone goal for the Penguins. Earlier in the day, the Bruins placed goaltender Tuukka Rask (concussion) on injured reserve.

The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on a late goal by captain Nick Foligno. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton left the game in the second period with an apparent left leg injury that coach Rod Brind’Amour said doesn’t look good.

Pete DeBoer got his first win as head coach with the Vegas Golden Knights as they doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone had a goal and an assist in his first game in Ottawa since getting traded to Vegas last February.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice, Carey Price made 40 saves, and Tomas Tatar collected three points as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. Canadiens sophomore Jesperi Kotkaniemi also got into the first fight of his career.

The Calgary Flames picked up their sixth win in seven games by downing the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1. Flames goaltender David Rittich made 35 saves for the win as teammate Matthew Tkachuk scored the only goal in the shootout.

Sam Montembeault made 23 saves coming off the bench to replace sidelined Chris Driedger as the Florida Panthers held on for a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists for the Kings.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark made 28 saves as his club defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1. It’s the Sabres fifth win in their last seven contests. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Philipp Grubauer had a 27-save shutout as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the San Jose Sharks 4-0. It’s the Avs first win in five games.

The Vancouver Canucks picked up their 10th win in their last 13 games by beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-1. Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves while Elias Pettersson collected two assists.

A late power-play goal by Chris Kreider lifted the New York Rangers over the New York Islanders 3-2. Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev kicked out 38 shots.

The Anaheim Ducks snapped a four-game losing skid by upsetting the Nashville Predators 4-2. Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson each had a goal and an assist. The Predators have dropped seven of their last 10 games and sit six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

The Minnesota Wild held on for a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first win in five games. Nikita Kucherov scored both Lightning goals.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet will replace Gerard Gallant as coach of the Pacific Division at the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game. Gallant was fired earlier this week as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

MLIVE.COM: Gallant’s firing raised questions about Jeff Blashill’s future as bench boss of the Detroit Red Wings. Blashill remains unconcerned and is focused on trying to find solutions to help his club.

THE SCORE: As expected, the NHL is talking to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers to ensure the next two games between the clubs don’t get out of hand. Senior VP of Player Safety George Parros will attend the Jan. 29 game in Edmonton. Tensions were raised after Oilers winger Zack Kassian received a two-game suspension for an on-ice altercation with Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk.

Winnipeg Jets center Mathieu Perreault is incensed that Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen won’t be suspended for elbowing him in the face during a recent game between the two clubs. “Player safety, my ass!,” he told a Winnipeg Sun reporter. “This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck,” Perreault added he could take measure into his own hands the next time a rival player does that to him. “I’m the smallest guy (on) the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick, so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—— stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have a feeling Perreault is going to get a phone call from Parros over his comments.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks placed center Dylan Strome (right ankle sprain) on injured reserve.

NEWSDAY: Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has asked the NHL to consider moving all Islanders games to Nassau Coliseum next season before they open their Belmont Park arena in 2021.