NHL Injury Outlook: Is Anyone Safe Now?
Mika Zibanejad lights up the Capitals, the Flyers keep rising in the Metro, the Wild and Blackhawks surge into playoff contention and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Mika Zibanejad scored five goals, including the winner in overtime, as the New York Rangers edged the Washington Capitals 6-5. Artemi Panarin and Tony DeAngelo each had three points for the Blueshirts. Zibanejad tied the club record for most goals in a single game. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to move into a tie for the goal-scoring lead with 47 goals. With the win, the surging Rangers (76 points) are two points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The slumping Capitals, meanwhile, move into a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Metropolitan Division with 87 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are in a good position to overtake the Isles and the stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets. They must now be taken seriously as a playoff contender. The Capitals, on the other hand, appear to be in trouble. As per The Washington Post, a lack of cohesive team player (especially on defense) has led to a record of 14-15-2 since Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, the Flyers picked up their eighth straight victory by downing the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Earlier in the day, however, the Flyers learned winger James van Riemsdyk will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with an injured hand. The struggling Hurricanes (75 points) slipped three points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. They also learned defenseman Brett Pesce is out for the season following shoulder surgery. His expected recovery period is four-to-six weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Capitals flounder, the Flyers are poised to take over first place in the Metro. They’ve been red hot in 2020, showing no sign of slowing. The Hurricanes are really struggling with goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek sidelined since late February. If they don’t return to action soon, the Canes’ playoff hopes could be dashed.
The Ottawa Senators spoiled the return of former Senator Jean-Gabriel Pageau by hanging on to defeat the New York Islanders 4-3. Pageau was dealt by the Sens to the Isles at last Monday’s trade deadline. The loss leaves the Islanders (78 points) clinging to the final Eastern wild-card spot. They’ve won just two of their last 11 contests.
An overtime goal by Torey Krug carried the Boston Bruins over the Florida Panthers 2-1. It was the Bruins’ fourth consecutive victory while the Panthers dropped their eighth straight home game. The Bruins sit atop the overall standings with 98 points, while the Panthers (74 points) sit four points out of a playoff spot in the East.
The Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 32 shots for the shutout while Victor Hedman tallied twice. The Bolts sit second in the Atlantic Division with 89 points. Before the game, Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar returned to Montreal for evaluation of an upper-body injury.
Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Evgeni Malkin collected two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2, handing the latter their fifth straight defeat. The Pens have won two straight and sit third in the Metro with 84 points.
Zach Parise extended his goal streak to four games and Alex Stalock made 30 stops as the Minnesota Wild nipped the San Jose Sharks 3-2. With 75 points, the Wild leaped over four other clubs into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A month ago, the Wild seemed done like dinner, especially after winger Jason Zucker was traded to Pittsburgh on Feb. 10. Since then, the Wild have won eight of their last 12 games and put themselves into the middle of the Western Conference playoff race.
The Nashville Predators got a 33-save shutout from Juuse Saros to blank the Dallas Stars 2-0. Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene were the goal scorers. The Stars (82 points) remain in third place in the Central Division while the Predators (74 points) moved into a four-way tie with the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, and Arizona Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card berth. The Canucks hold the spot due to games in hand.
Alex DeBrincat scored twice to lead the Chicago Blackhawks over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane also netted his 30th goal of the season. Chicago (74 points) are four points out of playoff contention in the West, while the Oilers (80 points) remain two back of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division.
Shootout goals by Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe gave the Los Angeles Kings a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves while the Leafs’ Frederik Andersen made 30. The Leafs (79 points) picked up a point and sit third in the Atlantic Division.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NJ.COM: Devils defenseman Will Butcher underwent season-ending surgery to repair ruptured ligaments in his right thumb.
TSN: The NHL Players Association canceled its April meeting with player agents because of the spread of the coronavirus.
NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Matthew Barnaby was arrested on assault and public intoxication charges at a Nashville bar early Thursday morning.
Flyers on the rise, salary cap could significantly increase next season, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their seventh straight victory by beating the Washington Capitals 5-2. Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (85 points) as they moved to within one point of the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals. It was a costly win, as winger James van Riemsdyk is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a broken hand blocking a shot. The Flyers have 16 victories in their last 21 games, while the Capitals have just four in their last 10 outings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers are surging at the right time and could supplant the slumping Capitals atop the Metro. They’re a deeper team thriving under head coach Alain Vigneault this season. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope without van Riemsdyk, who tallied 31 points in his last 41 contests.
An overtime goal by T.J. Brodie gave the Calgary Flames a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 77 points, the Flames opened a three-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division. The Jackets (78 points) picked up a point to move into the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 2-1 deficit to double up the Canucks 4-2. Carl Soderberg and Oliver Ekman-Larsson each had a goal and an assist as the Coyotes (74 points) moved into a three-way tie with the Canucks and Winnipeg Jets, though the latter two hold the last two wild-card berths with 34 wins each.
Rickard Rakell’s overtime tally lifted the Anaheim Ducks over the Colorado Avalanche 4-3, snapping the latter’s seven-game winning streak. Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists. Colorado has 88 points, two behind the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues.
The salary cap for 2020-21 could rise to between $84 million to $88 million, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. The cap is currently at $81.5 million. The increase will depend upon the NHLPA triggering its annual escalator clause. Daly also said the league is discussing a formula with the PA that could provide general managers with an annual cap figure earlier than they do now. That formula is part of ongoing CBA extension talks with the Players’ Association.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I assumed the cap could reach $84 million next season, but that potentially higher total surprised me. It will certainly benefit clubs with limited salary-cap space, such as the Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk required 90 stitches after being struck near his left eye in the face by a skate blade during Tuesday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. His eye was undamaged, but he’ll remain sidelined until the swelling goes down and his eye opens again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boychuk wears a visor, but it couldn’t provide full facial protection from a fluke injury like that.
CBS SPORTS: New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider faces a four-to-six week recovery from a broken foot suffered last week against the Flyers.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators dismissed CEO Jim Little following what he described as a heated argument he had with team owner Eugene Melnyk. A team source claimed cited “a pattern of behavior, not just one incident, among other things,” that led to Little’s dismissal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That source’s name wouldn’t rhyme with “Meugene Elnyk”, would it?
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The NHL is prohibiting its employees from making work-related trips outside North America over concerns about the coronavirus.
The holiday roster freeze is in effect until 12:01 am on Dec. 28, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST PENGUINS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Josh Yohe was asked if Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker or Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli were realistic trade options for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He suspects they’d like to add a top-six winger before the trade deadline and feels those names are worth keeping in mind. The Penguins attempted to acquired Zucker last spring. Yohe doesn’t believe they have an interest in free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
Yohe was also asked about shopping Matt Murray if Tristan Jarry continues out-playing him. He suggests Murray still has value in the trade market, though it’s not what it was a couple of years ago. He also doesn’t rule out forward Nick Bjugstad becoming a trade candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford making any moves following the trade freeze until his roster is healthier. He’s consistently demonstrated his ability at making significant in-season deals so I see him being busy near the trade deadline. I don’t think Zucker’s available now, but Toffoli will be for the right price.
Yohe didn’t say if he thought Rutherford would trade Murray. If the Penguins GM is considering that possibility, I don’t see it happening until the summer. Jarry’s playing well for now but Murray still has championship experience. Murray’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. His future in Pittsburgh could be decided on what type of contract he’s seeking.
SABRES, HURRICANES WILLING TO SHED DEFENSEMEN FOR SCORING HELP
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports there are a lot of teams ready to shed defensemen in exchange for scoring help.
He points out Buffalo Sabres blueliners Colin Miller, Zach Bogosian, and Marco Scandella are among those in the rumor mill for some time. Carolina Hurricanes rearguards Jake Gardiner, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Joel Edmundson are also out there.
McKenzie said the market’s been soft for those defensemen that are available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clubs in need of defensemen might be awaiting better options to appear in the trade market. Some of those teams could also be unwilling to part with a scoring forward.
Salary cap issues could also be a factor. Bogosian, for example, is carrying a $5.14-million cap hit this season while Scandella’s cap hit is $4 million. Gardiner’s earning over $4 million annually through 2022-23.
The Hurricanes and Sabres could be shopping defensemen, the latest on Kyle Turris, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
HURRICANES, SABRES COULD MOVE DEFENSEMEN
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Carolina Hurricanes are carrying a surplus of defensemen and don’t want to risk losing one on waivers. He claims they’re willing to move Trevor van Riemsdyk or Haydn Fleury for a top-nine forward. Both are restricted free agents next summer.
Darren Dreger also reported the Buffalo Sabres will have a log-jam on the blueline once Marco Scandella and Zach Bogosian return from injuries. He said Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is starting to shop around for a top-six and a bottom-six forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Scandella and van Riemsdyk could have the best trade value. Fleury was selected seventh overall in the 2014 NHL Draft but he’s struggled to meet expectations with the Hurricanes. The oft-injured Bogosian is unlikely to draw much interest. Possible trade destinations include the Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Montreal Canadiens.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion’s scouting trip to Los Angeles and Nashville sparked trade speculation. He’s in the market for an experienced forward but warned not to jump to any conclusions. The Predators are trying to move Kyle Turris and that had some wondering about a possible reunion with the Senators. Dorion declined to comment but Friedman said he was told it’s not happening.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bringing back Turris and his $6-million annual salary-cap hit through 2023-24 makes no sense for the rebuilding, cost-conscious Senators. Dorion’s scouting trip to Los Angeles could’ve been to watch Kings winger Tyler Toffoli, though it was more likely to check out the Kings before the upcoming game between the two clubs.
Friedman predicts the Colorado Avalanche could go “big-game hunting” in the trade market. They’re dynamite when healthy and have plenty of assets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If GM Joe Sakic does target a big-name player (Taylor Hall, perhaps?), it’ll likely be near the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Of course, he could make an earlier move if his banged-up club doesn’t soon snap out of its current slump.
The return of Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman’s imminent return has teams checking to see if the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in moving a big salary. They’ve been told the Leafs want to see their strongest roster in action before making any decisions. “That means, as expected, a team of 20 or 21; so two or three will be traded or waived,” said Friedman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Leafs move a big contract it won’t be Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner or Morgan Rielly. Kyle Dubas last year promising William Nylander he wouldn’t be traded as long as Dubas was general manager. Frederik Andersen obviously isn’t going anywhere. They’re all the Leafs carrying annual average values of $5 million or more.
The Los Angeles Kings could move some more veteran players this season. Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar, as well as their young prospects. aren’t going anywhere. There hasn’t been much contract extension talk with pending UFA Kyle Clifford. Friedman believes interested parties will have to work to entice the Kings into parting with him.
NHLPA decision to re-open CBA extended to Monday, Evgeny Kuznetsov receives a three-game suspension, Wild re-sign Jared Spurgeon, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL Players Association intends to use a provision in the NHL collective bargaining agreement to extend its deadline to re-open the CBA to Monday, Sept, 16. The provision allows the deadline to be advanced to the next business day if the decision date falls on a Sunday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the PA decides to re-open the CBA, it will expire in one year if the two sides fail to reach agreement on a CBA extension. Optimists will consider this one-day extension as potentially good news, providing the PA and the league an extra day to work out a deal. Whatever decision the players make, Ottawa Senators PA representative Dylan DeMelo claims they will be united behind it.
WASHINGTON POST: Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov received a three-game suspension by the NHL after testing positive for cocaine this spring while representing Russia at the 2019 World Championships. Kuznetsov won’t appeal the suspension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it’s a slap on the wrist for Kuznetsov but also a warning shot across his bow. A repeat offense will lead to a lengthier suspension.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild yesterday re-signed defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a seven-year, $53-million contract extension. The annual average value is $7.575 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bill Guerin’s first significant signing since taking over as the Wild’s general manager is being widely applauded. Despite his 5’9″, 167-pound frame, Spurgeon is a key part of the Wild defense corps. The 29-year-old logs big minutes and plays well at both ends of the rink.
With the rising salary cap driving up players salaries, this deal for Spurgeon is already a bargain for the Wild. He would’ve received much more in next summer’s free-agent market.
WINNIPEG SUN: Winger Patrik Laine will train with SC Bern in Switzerland as his contract impasse continues with the Jets. Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Ken Wiebe reports Andrew Copp is dealing with a minor injury while Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen “were a bit stiff after they were in a fender bender on Friday.”
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Center Kevin Hayes denied a rumor from back in June claiming he would sign with the Flyers only if they overpaid him. “Someone made up something and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” he said. In June, he signed a seven-year, $50-million contract.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk won’t be ready for the start of the season as he continues to rehab from off-season shoulder surgery.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens blueliners Noah Juulsen (head) and Karl Alzner (groin injury) are listed as day-to-day.
CBC: A U.S. casino is suing Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk “for more than $900,000, saying he tried and failed to pay them with bank drafts over a winter weekend in 2017.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Annnnnd the Melnyk Circus continues in Ottawa. Step right up, folks, and let’s see what mischief the Senators cantankerous owner can ensnare himself into this season.
Boedker will be our at least five days with hip flexor. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) September 14, 2019