NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

Are offseason changes in store this summer for the Blue Jackets? Could Patrik Laine, Max Domi or John Tortorella be part of them? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline was asked if Patrik Laine’s body language suggests the Blue Jackets winger wants out of Columbus. Citing those who know Laine best, he said the winger does care, wants to be in Columbus and is being maligned by a lack of confidence. Laine becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Portzline suspects he’ll get a one-year deal, making him an RFA again next summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine could also pop up in offseason trade speculation. Unless he demands a trade or the Jackets get a mind-blowing offer I expect they’ll re-sign him. A one-year contract could be the best path for now given his difficulties this season.

This was a tough season for the Jackets as a team and Laine personally. The club could have a different coach behind the bench and maybe some news faces in the lineup for 2021-22. Gauging Laine’s play over a normal 82-game schedule will allow them to fully evaluate whether he’s a worthwhile long-term fit.

The likely return for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo could be underwhelming if the market for goaltenders is flooded this summer. He suggested teams like Colorado, Toronto or Washington could seek help between the pipes if their goaltending fails them in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer’s pending UFA goalies include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. There could still be a decent market for Merzlikins or Korpisalo assuming Rask and Grubauer sign with their current clubs.

The health of the franchise will depend upon what Seth Jones wants to do. Signing the defenseman to a contract extension this summer has to be the top item on general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s list, followed by deciding whether to sign or replace head coach John Tortorella.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent. The Blue Jackets can open contract extension talks once the NHL offseason is in full swing. His contract negotiations could become a hot topic in this summer’s rumor mill. If Jones prefers testing the market it could lead to a franchise-altering trade at some point before next year’s trade deadline.

Tortorella’s critics this season (of which I am one) wonder why he hasn’t been replaced given the Jackets’ decline this season and the struggles of Laine and Max Domi since their arrivals in Columbus. There’s no question he did a good job reversing their fortunes in recent years. Nevertheless, the club’s disappointing performance this season suggests it’s time for a change behind the bench. We’ll find out well before next season if Kekalainen shares that view.

Portzline is against trading struggling forward Max Domi, pointing out the Jackets would be selling low. He wonders if Domi might benefit from a different voice behind the bench.

In another mailbag, Portzline suggests the Jackets might have to package defenseman Zach Werenski to acquire a No. 1 center in the trade market, though they shouldn’t do that unless they know what Jones intends to do. Free-agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Montreal’s Phillip Danault but the former is really a second-line center and the latter a middle-six guy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boosting the offense should be a priority, even if it means adding wingers if no decent centers can be found. The Jackets require a reliable first-line center but they might have to develop their own while making do in the short term with second-line additions via trades and/or free agency.










NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2021

Looking ahead at what the offseason could have in store for the Blue Jackets and Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BLUE JACKETS

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline examined what could in store during the offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets after being sellers at this year’s NHL trade deadline. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen insists his club isn’t rebuilding but retooling.

Will Seth Jones re-sign this summer with the Columbus Blue Jackets? (NHL Images)

Kekalainen faces a busy offseason. Head coach John Tortorella could be on his way out as he’s in the final year of his contract. Goaltenders Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer and it’s likely one of them will be traded this summer. Winger Patrik Laine is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Defenseman Zach Werenski reaches a similar status next summer but could be re-signed to an extension this summer. 

Blueliner Seth Jones is a year away from UFA eligibility and can be signed to a contract extension this summer. His willingness to commit long-term to the Jackets will determine if the club is retooling or rebuilding. Kekalainen could move quickly to trade Jones if the rearguard rejects an extension.

With three first-round picks in this year’s draft, the Jackets could try to shop one of them (except their own) to add a roster player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a summer of significant change for the Jackets. As Portzline suggests, that will be determined by what happens with Jones. His situation will be closely monitored by Jackets followers this summer.

Merzlikins was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate leading up to Monday’s deadline. He has better stats than Korpisalo, potentially making him a more valuable trade chip to add a quality forward if packaged with one of their extra first-round picks.

Laine will seek a big raise over the $6.75 million salary-cap hit of his current contract. His performance this season, however, might not help his case if it goes to arbitration. Werenski, on the other hand, shouldn’t have much difficulty getting a hefty pay hike given his value to the Jackets blueline.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Tortorella. Many observers (including me) feel the Jackets need a change behind the bench but Kekalainen could see it differently.

MAPLE LEAFS

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently examined the cost for the Maple Leafs of re-signing pending UFAs Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman. He anticipates the latter could command something comparable to the $6.5 million AAV that kicks in next season for Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher.

Keeping Andersen and Hyman would mean trading away someone of significance such as Alex Kerfoot and his $3.5 million cap hit. If the Leafs believe Jack Campbell is ready to become a full-time No. 1 goalie they can let Andersen walk and hopefully have enough space to re-sign Hyman and perhaps add a reliable backup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is probably Andersen’s last season with the Leafs regardless of Campbell’s status. If they have any doubts over Campbell as a starting goalie they’ll keep him as a backup and look to the trade market (maybe Elvis Merzlikins?) or free agency for a suitable starter

As for Hyman, I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs let him walk. He’s developed into an invaluable top-six forward. Unless his salary demands are ridiculous he’ll be re-signed to a long-term deal.










Five Surprises So Far From the NHL Central Division

Five Surprises So Far From the NHL Central Division

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 2, 2021

Recaps of Monday’s action, the three stars of the week, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A third-period goal by Vincent Trocheck set the stage for Martin Necas’ overtime winner as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Florida Panthers 3-2. Necas also collected two assists while Alex Nedeljkovic made 44 saves for the win. The Panthers (30 points) remain in first place in the Discover Central Division, one point ahead of the Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. They also played with winger Anthony Duclair as he’s sidelined at least a week with a lower-body injury suffered during Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes.

Ottawa Senators winger Drake Batherson scored twice to extend his franchise-record goal streak to six games in a 5-1 upset of the Calgary Flames. Matt Murray got the win with 27 saves and Senators rookie Tim Stutzle picked up two assists. The Flames (22 points) have dropped three of their last four games and remain one point behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the Scotia North Division.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko made 27 saves for his first NHL shutout in a 4-0 upset of the Winnipeg Jets. Elias Pettersson and Nate Schmidt each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks, who moved to within three points of the Canadiens.

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (NHL Images).

Mark Stone collected five primary assists as the Vegas Golden Knights overcame a 4-2 deficit to nip the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime, snapping the Wild’s six-game win streak. Max Pacioretty scored twice, including the game-winner. Marcus Foligno tallied twice for the Wild (25 points), who remain two points back of the first-place Golden Knights in the Honda West Division.

The St. Louis Blues got two goals and an assist from Zach Sanford to hold off the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The Blues sit one point behind the Golden Knights. Ducks forward Isac Lundestrom collected his first career NHL hat trick.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Michael Hutchinson kicked out 31 shots in a 3-0 shutout over the Edmonton Oilers. William Nylander and Morgan Rielly each had a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who blanked the Oilers for the second straight game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs accomplished this feat with leading goal scorer Auston Matthews and starting goalie Frederik Andersen sidelined by injuries.

The San Jose Sharks scored six unanswered goals in a 6-2 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche. Evander Kane had a goal and two assists while Timo Meier collected three helpers. The Avalanche played without defenseman Cale Makar, who returned to Denver for further evaluation regarding an upper-body injury suffered during Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

HEADLINES

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane and Minnesota Wild winger Mats Zuccarello are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 28.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is expected to make public comments today supporting head coach John Tortorella, who’s in the final season of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella’s future has become the topic of speculation as the Jackets has dropped five straight games and seven of their last eight, leaving them seven points behind the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers claimed goaltender Alex Stalock off waivers yesterday from the Wild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stalock revealed he was diagnosed with the heart condition myocarditis after testing positive for COVID-19 last November. He received clearance to resume training in mid-January but was unable to regain his spot on the Wild’s goalie tandem. As he’s crossing the US-Canada border he must quarantine for two weeks before joining the Oilers.

THE PROVINCE: Former NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi was arrested for drunk driving in Michigan over the weekend.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 1, 2021

Recaps of Sunday’s games feature Patrick Kane and Alain Vigneault reaching career milestones plus updates on Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Gabriel Landeskog and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Patrick Kane scored his 400th career goal as the Chicago Blackhawks thumped the Detroit Red Wings 7-2. He had a three-point performance while Alex DeBrincat collected four points and Kevin Lankinen made 44 saves for the Blackhawks. They’ve won six of their last eight games and sit third in the Discover Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane tallied career goal 400 in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered how the Blackhawks would fill the leadership void when team captain Jonathan Toews was sidelined by a mysterious illness. Kane has certainly risen to the occasion. He’s also tied for second with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (34 points) in the NHL scoring race.

Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault picked up career win 700 as his club blanked the Buffalo Sabres 3-0. Goalie Carter Hart made 28 saves for the shutout while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault is tied with Mike Babcock for eighth on the all-time list.

The Boston Bruins got two goals from Charlie Coyle and two assists from David Pastrnak as they defeated the New York Rangers 4-1. Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev played most of the game with a scratched left eye suffered in the first period. He went to the bench for repairs and returned to the game.

A 28-save performance by Juuse Saros helped the Nashville Predators down the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1, sweeping their two-game series and handing the Jackets their fifth straight loss. Columbus coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t concerned about his job security in a post-game press conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Changes could be coming to the Jackets if they don’t snap out of this tailspin soon. They’re now six points behind the fourth-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Central.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal as the Washington Capitals edged the New Jersey Devils 3-2. Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 19 saves in his first game since coming off the COVID-19 protocol list. Jakub Vrana had a goal and an assist for the Caps. Devils captain Nico Hischier missed the game and is listed as day-to-day after taking a puck to the face on Saturday.

New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin made 20 saves for his second straight shutout in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were the goal scorers.

HEADLINES

THE SCORE: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel claimed he didn’t get hurt during pregame warmup before Thursday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, contradicting what coach Ralph Krueger told reporters that night. Eichel said he got hurt in New Jersey on Tuesday, which also forced him to miss Thursday’s game. Krueger said Sunday he wasn’t trying to mislead anyone with his statement on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This would be at best a minor issue for a normal team. For the floundering Sabres, however, it’s seen by their critics as yet another example of the dysfunction within the club.

TORONTO STAR: The Maple Leafs could face the Edmonton Oilers tonight without center Auston Matthews and goalies Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. They’re nursing injuries and listed as day-to-day. Michael Hutchinson will get the call if Andersen and Campbell can’t play.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog tied Peter Forsberg for the third-most goals (202) in franchise history during Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

NBC SPORTS: Florida Panthers winger Brett Connolly and Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock were placed on waivers yesterday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m interested to see if a team in need of goalie depth plucks Stalock off the waiver wire. He had decent numbers last season but has been relegated to third-stringer behind Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen this season.

STLTODAY.COM: Jacob de la Rose became the sixth player on the St. Louis Blues to be placed on injured reserve.

TSN: Four players – Arizona’s John Hayden, Detroit’s Patrik Nemeth, the New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl – remain on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were calls from some in the media in mid-February for the NHL to pause or reduce the schedule over the growing number of players on the protocol list and the postponement of games as a result. Those numbers have significantly dropped over the last two weeks, suggesting the league’s updated protocols are working.










Tortorella’s Benching Move A Far Cry From Accusations Against Babcock

Tortorella’s Benching Move A Far Cry From Accusations Against Babcock