Recaps of Sunday’s preseason games, Bruins winger Taylor Hall sidelined longer than expected, Jaromir Jagr could be hanging up his skates and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines
PRESEASON GAMES RECAP
NHL.COM: The Minnesota Wild blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 12 stops to shut out his former team. Blackhawks netminder Petr Mrazek made 30 saves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mrazek is hoping a new stretching routine will improve his flexibility and reduce his injury risk. He’s been frequently sidelined over the past two seasons.
The Blackhawks also learned yesterday that Boris Katchouk will miss four-to-six weeks with a sprained left ankle. The 24-year-old winger suffered the injury during Saturday’s preseason contest against the Detroit Red Wings.
New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield tallied what proved to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game marked John Tortorella’s first of the preseason behind the Flyers bench. He’d spent the previous four contests observing his club’s performance from the coaches box. I daresay Tortorella isn’t too pleased with what he’s seen thus far. The Flyers have won just once in their five preseason contests and scored just five goals.
Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images).
Jonathan Quick made 24 saves to backstop the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Urho Vaakanainen could soon return to the Ducks lineup. The 23-year-old defenseman was stretchered from the ice after crashing into the end boards during Friday’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. He was taken to a hospital for observation but was released on the same night.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Taylor Hall is listed as week-to-week after suffering an upper-body injury during Saturday’s preseason game against the Flyers. Rookie winger Fabian Lysell also left that game and is listed as day-to-day.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall could miss the start of the season next week. The Bruins will also be without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk as they are still recovering from offseason surgeries.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger tweeted that Blues Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs goaltenders Matt Murray and Erik Kallgren wore specialized goggles during training yesterday. They are designed to reduce their peripheral vision as a puck-tracking technique.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks left veterans Alexander Barabonov and Markus Nutivaara behind as they traveled to Czechia for their season-opening games against the Nashville Predators. Injuries sideline both players and questionable to join their teammates for those upcoming games.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning returned to Tampa Bay to resume training camp. They moved camp to Nashville last week ahead of Hurricane Ian which battered Florida.
DAILY FACEOFF: Jaromir Jagr is mulling retirement from hockey. The 50-year-old forward has spent the past five seasons playing for the Kladno Knights in Czechia. He also owns the club and helped them play their way into Czechia’s top league.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jagr’s last NHL season was in 2017-18 with the Calgary Flames before being loaned to Kladno midway through that campaign. He’s one of the greatest players in hockey history but hasn’t been elected into the Hall of Fame because he’s still maintained his playing career.
Notable highlights from Friday’s preseason play, Canadiens’ rookie Juraj Slafkovsky’s underwhelming preseason play, Flyers goaltender Carter Hart says he’ll be ready for his club’s season-opener, plus the latest injury updates and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Matt Duchene scored twice in a five-point performance to lead the Nashville Predators to a 7-1 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning in preseason action on Friday. Tanner Jeannot had four points (including two goals) while Filip Forsberg collected three assists.
Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (NHL Images).
San Jose Sharks hopeful Danil Gushchin tallied a hat trick in a 7-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Jack Eichel scored two goals for the Golden Knights. Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was stretchered from the ice after crashing into the end boards. He was taken to a hospital for observation and was said to have full movement of his extremities and was fully conscious and alert.
Speaking of the Ducks, sophomore center Trevor Zegras will undergo more medical tests after suffering an upper-body injury in a preseason game on Wednesday.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Nick Robertson scored twice and added an assist as his club downed the Ottawa Senators 6-3.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes called Juraj Slafkovsky’s performance in his first two NHL preseason contests “a little underwhelming”. Hughes said the club would do what was best to help the 2022 first-overall pick to improve. He didn’t rule out having the 18-year-old winger start the season with their AHL affiliate in Laval.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Internet trolls and panicky Canadiens fans are already calling Slafkovsky a bust. Sensible hockey fans understand it’s far too early for that kind of assessment.
The young Slovak is trying to adjust to a different style of game on a smaller ice surface. Some players can adjust quickly while others need more time.
The worst thing the Canadiens can do is try to push Slafkovsky into their lineup before he’s ready. If he needs a season in the AHL to adjust to the North American game then so be it. If he’s not NHL-ready yet he shouldn’t be on their roster this season simply because he’s a first-overall draft pick.
Slafkovsky could become a superstar. He could become a bust. He could become something in-between. It’s ridiculous to write him off after just two meaningless preseason contests.
Speaking of the Canadiens, winger Josh Anderson explained the upper-body injury that sidelined him since the start of training camp was a spider bite on his hand that got infected.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t a radioactive spider so he won’t turn into the NHL’s version of Spiderman. Anderson is expected to return to their lineup before the end of their preseason schedule.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: Carter Hart will miss the Flyers’ first four preseason games. However, the 24-year-old goaltender said he expected to be ready for the club’s season opener on Oct. 13 against the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers will need a healthy Hart at his best if they hope to reach the playoffs this season. They’re already missing Ryan Ellis from their blueline for the season while center Sean Couturier will miss the start of the schedule with an upper-body injury.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Andrew Copp hopes to make his debut with the Red Wings in their season-opener on Oct. 14. The versatile 28-year-old forward signed with the Wings as a free agent but is still recovering from offseason abdominal surgery.
TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Dahlstrom requires shoulder surgery that will sideline him for six months. Blueliner Jordie Benn will be out for three weeks with a groin strain.
Calgary Flames trade winger Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers (NHL Images).
The Panthers also signed Tkachuk to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $9.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I must confess to being surprised by this move. I didn’t expect the Panthers to give up Huberdeau nor did I believe the Flames would acquire two players slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
Nevertheless, I admire the willingness of Panthers general manager Bill Zito and Flames GM Brad Treliving for making what’s become a rarity in today’s salary cap world: a major, honest-to-goodness hockey trade.
Zito is getting an impact player in Tkachuk. The 24-year-old winger is a big, elite, agitating forward entering the prime of his career and is five years younger than Huberdeau. He’s coming off a career-best 42-goal, 104-point performance last season.
The Panthers GM also ensured that he got Tkachuk under contract throughout his playing prime. This deal signals the Panthers’ intention to remain among the league’s best teams for a long time.
Tkachuk’s new contract leaves the Panthers sitting $4 million over the $82.5 million salary cap. Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards indicates they’ll free up $3 million by placing winger Anthony Duclair on long-term injury reserve as he continues to recover from an offseason Achilles tendon injury.
Richards also noted that the Panthers are still sitting over the cap by $1 million. They’ll have to shed another salary to become cap compliant when the 2022-23 season opens in October.
Tkachuk recently informed Treliving that he wasn’t going to sign a long-term deal with Calgary. Having lost Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets via free agency last week, he couldn’t repeat that mistake with Tkachuk.
The Flames GM got a terrific return from the Panthers. Huberdeau, 29, is coming off a career-best 115-point campaign, tying Gaudreau for second overall among last season’s leading scorers. He’s a gifted playmaker who’s tallied 61-or-more points in each of the last five seasons.
Weegar, 28, has blossomed over the past two years into a mobile top-four defenseman. He had 36 points in 54 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and 44 points in 80 contests last season.
The 21-year-old Schwindt made his NHL debut last season in three games with the Panthers. A physical, two-way forward who can play center or wing, he had 40 points in 72 games with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers last season. Treliving also gets himself a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2025. Not a bad haul for Tkachuk.
Treliving isn’t out of the woods yet. He must get Huberdeau and Weegar re-signed or risk suffering the same fate next summer as he did this year with Gaudreau. Still, he’s got enough time and cap space to get something done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine is a skilled scoring forward with an impressive shot. However, his production suffered following a career-best 44-goal performance with the Winnipeg Jets in 2017-18.
Laine was limited to second-line duty during his final seasons with the Jets. He struggled to adjust following his trade in 2021 to the Blue Jackets and had to deal with injuries and the death of his father last season.
Nevertheless, Laine was a point-per-game player last season, tallying 56 points in as many games. He could regain his 40-goal form if he meshes well with the recently-acquired Johnny Gaudreau on the Jackets’ top line.
This is an expensive gamble by the Blues Jacket but it could pay off handsomely. Laine and Gaudreau could form a dangerous one-two scoring punch that accelerates the club’s rebuild, putting them squarely among next season’s playoff contenders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a cost-cutting measure by the Blue Jackets. They were above the $82.5 million salary cap by over $6 million after signing Laine.
This move sheds Bjorkstrand’s $5.4 million, leaving the Jackets roughly $900K over the cap. Another move will be necessary before the start of the season to become cap compliant but that could be accomplished by demoting a player to the minors.
This was a savvy move by Kraken GM Ron Francis. He bolstered his club’s scoring punch and all it cost him was a couple of extra mid-level draft picks.
Bjorkstrand should be a fine acquisition for the Kraken. A skillful scoring forward, the 27-year-old winger tallied a career-best 28 goals and 57 points in 80 games with the Blue Jackets last season. He will bring some much-needed depth among their top-six forwards and is under contract through 2025-26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here given the 24-year-old center’s intention to test the UFA market in 2024. Dubois will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. He remains a prime trade candidate this summer and has been linked to the Montreal Canadiens.
SPORTSNET: Halifax police are opening an investigation into an alleged group sexual assault said to have taken place in 2003 involving members of Canada’s world junior hockey team.
News of the investigation emerged after Hockey Canada revealed in a statement that it learned of the allegations after being contacted by TSN reporter Rick Westhead. The organization contacted Halifax police and informed Sports Canada.
NHL.COM: The league released a statement saying it is looking into the allegations and will respond accordingly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many of the players on that 2003 team went on to NHL careers.
This is the second report of group sexual assault involving members of Canada’s world junior team. The first involved the 2018 squad. The investigation into that has been re-opened after it was revealed Hockey Canada used funding from player registration fees as a slush fund for “uninsured liabilities” such as sexual assault.
The 2018 incident wasn’t a one-off by a bunch of bad apples. This latest report suggests there’s a systemic problem within Hockey Canada that’s gone unchecked for years. Change should and must be made immediately at every level right now to address this cancer within its system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giroux’s no-movement clause gave him full control over this situation and severely limited where the Flyers could ship him. While the Colorado Avalanche were also considered among the bidders, it was apparent in recent days that the Panthers were emerging as the most likely destination.
Philadelphia Flyers trade Claude Giroux to the Florida Panthers (NHL Images).
Panthers general manager Bill Zito was considered to be in “go-for-it” mode this season with his club riding high in the Eastern Conference standings. Having bolstered his blueline earlier this week by acquiring defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens, he’s provided additional firepower to his forward lines with Giroux.
A versatile, productive forward who can play all three forward positions and is among the best faceoff men in the league, the 34-year-old Giroux will provide the Panthers with veteran experience and leadership to go with his impressive skill set. It’ll be interesting to see where they put him on their already deep forward lines.
The return for the Flyers probably won’t sit well with their fans. Considering the Panthers were believed the only serious bidder, this is the best they could get.
Tippett, 23, should provide some immediate help and will have an opportunity to get his NHL career on track after seeing checking-line minutes with the Panthers. The first-rounder is worthwhile but it’s two years from now. Still, this return is quite light considering the harvest the Anaheim Ducks got from the Boston Bruins for Hampus Lindholm.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having traded Josh Manson to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek has shipped out another of his veteran defense core in Lindholm after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension. The 28-year-old blueliner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
This is a significant addition for the Bruins, who’ve been lacking skilled top-four left-side blueline depth since Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug departed via free agency two years ago. The 6’3, 208-pound Lindholm plays a solid all-around game and can log big minutes. He’ll lift some of the defensive burdens from Boston’s top rearguard Charlie McAvoy.
It remains to be seen if Lindholm will be merely a rental player or if the Bruins can re-sign him. It’s believed his insistence on a seven- or eight-year deal was the factor that scuttled his contract talks with the Ducks. Bruins GM Don Sweeney has a history of re-signing notable pending free agents acquired by the trade deadline (hello there, Taylor Hall) so perhaps he’ll take a stab at retaining Lindholm if he proves a good fit in Boston.
Verbeek has signaled the rebuild is on for the Ducks considering the draft picks he’s getting in this deal to go along with the 2023 second-rounder he got from the Avalanche in the Manson trade and the 2023 third-rounder he’s getting from the Wild. The Ducks are also getting a 23-year-old defenseman in Vaakanainen who had difficulty cracking the Bruins blueline but could have a better opportunity to reach his full potential with the Ducks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wild GM Bill Guerin decides to add some muscle to his checking lines for the playoffs. Deslaurier, 31, is a big, physical depth forward with 10 points and 90 PIMs in 61 games with the Ducks this season. He’s also an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Check out the latest on the Bruins, Golden Knights and Ducks in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
ADDRESSING THE BRUINS’ ROSTER NEEDS
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins’ most pressing need is for a second-line center for this season and perhaps beyond. He suggested the Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux could address the former while the Vancouver Canucks’ J.T. Miller would be a good candidate for the latter.
Shinzawa felt center Jack Studnicka could become a trade piece if he can rebuild his game and help the Bruins. Other teams have shown an interest in Studnick and defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, though there are questions about the latter’s ceiling and if he’s playoff ready. If the Bruins believe Vaakanainen is ready, Mike Reilly could be on the move, though Vaakanainen could fetch a better return.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss believes a lack of defensive depth could be a fatal flaw for the Bruins as it was in recent postseason runs. He suggested targeting the Chicago Blackhawks’ Calvin de Haan, the Seattle Kraken’s Mark Giordano, the Detroit Red Wings’ Nick Leddy or the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Giroux, Miller and Chychrun could prove to be out of the Bruins’ price range unless they’re willing to part with top prospect Fabian Lysell and that’s something they shouldn’t do. Leddy or de Haan could be more affordable options.
Giordano is somewhere in the middle. He probably won’t be as expensive as Giroux, Miller and Chychrun but will cost more than Leddy or de Haan. The Kraken could seek a first-round pick and a prospect.
LATEST ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
NHL.COM: Dan Rosen was recently asked how the Vegas Golden Knights will clear salary-cap space for Jack Eichel’s contract when he’s finally healthy and ready to join their lineup. They currently have Eichel, defenseman Alec Martinez and forward Adam Brooks on injured reserve.
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (NHL Images)
If all three are activated they’ll have to start trading or waiving some depth players. If they’re still over the $81.5 million cap, they’ll have to move a more impactful player like Evgenii Dadonov or Reilly Smith, who each carry cap hits of $5 million.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: With the Golden Knights’ recent signing of Brayden McNabb to a three-year deal worth $2.85 million per season, Owen Krepps speculates they could look at shedding a defenseman to trim some payroll. He suggested Martinez could be the odd man out. While they re-signed the 34-year-old blueliner last summer, he’s been sidelined for all but 11 games this season. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have managed well in his absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martinez carries a $5.25 million annual average value. Moving him would spare them from shipping out Dadonov or Smith. However, his 16-team no-trade list for this season could complicate efforts to move him.
DUCKS POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman looked at the “to-do list” of new Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek. He believes winger Rickard Rakell is the most likely of the Anaheim Ducks’ three notable pending UFAs to get traded. The top question is whether Verbeek can allow Hampus Lindholm to walk if he doesn’t think he can re-sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Verbeek does as the trade deadline approaches. I think much will depend on where the Ducks in the standings by then. They last reached the playoffs in 2018. Like every club, their revenue has taken a hit by COVID-19 and a chance to get some postseason cash could be tempting. Those three could be retained as own rentals if they’re still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Power reports there’s an assumption around the league that Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be finishing the season elsewhere. Two league sources suggest Fleury’s play of late could fetch the Blackhawks a first-round pick, something they could be without in this year’s draft because of last summer’s Seth Jones trade.
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images)
Powers also cited a Blackhawks source claiming the club hasn’t discussed a contract extension with Fleury. The 37-year-old netminder becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. He carries a $7 million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade no-trade clause. The defending Vezina Trophy winner also has three Stanley Cup rings on his resume.
Teams that fancy themselves contenders but have middling-to-poor goaltending (Edmonton, Washington) could come calling. Powers wondered if a reunion with the Pittsburgh Penguins might be possible regardless of how well Tristan Jarry plays this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals, Oilers and Penguins also have little projected salary-cap space. Any deal involving Fleury and those clubs would have to be dollar-in, dollar-out or involve some salary retention in the Blackhawks part. The Hawks might be willing to do that for a 2022 first-round pick.
Oilers general manager Ken Holland recently said he didn’t want to part with his first-rounder for a short-term fix. Unless he changes his mind, we can probably rule out the Oilers as a destination if Fleury is willing to go to Edmonton.
The Penguins are playing very well right now. If that continues over the next couple of months they could stick with Jarry and hope his playoff meltdown last year was a one-off. The Capitals could kick tires but that’ll depend on the play of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek in the coming weeks.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Colby Guy cites Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman confirming the Panthers are interested in Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. George Richards last week reported the Panthers would take a look at the Boca Rotan native, who has three seasons remaining on his contract with an annual cap hit of $4.6 million.
Guy said the Panthers seek a left-handed defenseman who can bring some consistency to the blue line. Marek speculated the asking price for Chychrun could be goaltender Spencer Knight, rookie center Anton Lundell, and a first-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chychrun would be a terrific fit on the Panthers blueline. His contract would give them an asset that helps them now and over the next three years. However, I doubt GM Bill Zito will give up that much to get him. He could part with his first-rounder but Knight and Lundell are also going to be vital components in the Panthers’ long-term future. I’ll be shocked if he parts with them.
LATEST ON REILLY SMITH AND URHO VAAKANAINEN
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Owen Krepps recently examined the pros and cons of the Golden Knights potentially shopping Reilly Smith at the trade deadline. The 30-year-old winger is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Shipping out Smith and his $5 million cap hit for this season would help the Golden Knights free up sufficient cap space when Jack Eichel is ready to make his debut in the coming weeks. He could also fetch them a solid return. However, doing so would hurt the club’s identity and take away a skilled player who could help them win the Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krepps argues there are other options the Golden Knights could take to free up that cap space for Eichel. GM Kelly McCrimmon could very well prefer those options (trading Evgenii Dadonov?) over moving Smith. However, shopping the veteran winger remains the easiest option given his value in the trade market and his lack of no-trade protection.
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa suggests a trade might be the best bet for Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen to become a full-time NHLer. He believes clubs like Arizona or Seattle could have their eye on a 23-year-old former first-rounder who isn’t playing a major role, suggesting such players could improve skating with rebuilding teams.
Shinzawa said the Bruins aren’t in a rush to trade Vaakanainen. However, he speculates they could listen to any offer that could improve their odds of winning this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vaakanainen on his own probably won’t draw that type of offer. Packaged with Jake DeBrusk? Maybe, but I wouldn’t hold my breath given the apparent lack of interest DeBrusk is drawing thus far in the trade market.