Leafs hope that added experience will lead to NHL playoff success
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines: Alex Pietrangelo reportedly close to signing with the Golden Knights, the Blackhawks core aren’t happy with management’s recent moves, and the latest notable free-agent signings.
THE ATHLETIC’s Jeremy Rutherford reported hearing Alex Pietrangelo and the Vegas Golden Knights were getting close to a deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford speculated it could’ve come as early as last night. Nothing so far as of this posting but they could reach an agreement later today. Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights currently have $1.875 million in salary-cap space. A new contract for Pietrangelo could cost over $8 million annually on a long-term deal.
They are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, but they’ll have to shed significant salary to fit that deal under the cap before the start of next season. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
THE SCORE: cited The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus reporting the Chicago Blackhawks veteran core players (Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and captain Jonathan Toews) are fed up with management’s offseason moves. Lazerus cites a source claiming they’re “pissed off” and have “had enough”.
The Blackhawks let Corey Crawford depart for New Jersey via free agency, traded Brandon Saad to Colorado for Nikita Zadorov, and didn’t tender qualifying offers to Drake Caggiula and Slater Koekkoek. Toews said the recent moves came as a shock, adding he was never told the club was going through a rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman deserves criticism for his management of the club’s cap payroll. They have little room to maintain a playoff-caliber roster. However, a big chunk of those cap dollars is invested in those core players. I can sympathize with their frustration, but they have no business being pissed off when their contracts annually eat up over $33 million in salary-cap space.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed center Radek Faksa to a five-year contract worth $3.25 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Faksa, 26, has become an effective shutdown center on the Stars’ third line. This is an affordable deal that’s pretty much in line with market value for a center of his skill set.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year, $4-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another good, affordable signing by Wings GM Steve Yzerman. Namestnikov is a versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing. He also wanted to play for Detroit. He’s the nephew of former Wing Slava Kozlov and lives in the area.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed forward Kyle Clifford to a two-year contract worth $1 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues sit above the salary cap by $1.175 million with defenseman Vince Dunn to re-sign. While they could make a cost-cutting deal, they will likely start next season with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen on long-term injury reserve, allowing them to exceed the cap by their equivalent salaries until such time as they return to action.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed forward Jimmy Vesey to a one-year, $900K contract.
Should the Oilers re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Which notable players should the Sabres retain? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.
SHOULD THE OILERS RE-SIGN NUGENT-HOPKINS ASAP?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell called upon the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins once this season is over. The 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Mitchell cited Nugent-Hopkins’ improved offensive game skating on the wing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto. A big offensive performance next season could make re-signing him more difficult. He suggested inking Nugent-Hopkins to a six-year, $45-million extension, which would equate to an annual average value of $7.5 million.
Mitchell believes the idea of moving Nugent-Hopkins at next season’s trade deadline is noxious to Oilers’ fans. He feels the Oilers will never get full value back by moving him as a playoff rental. He thinks there’s no one in the Oilers’ system to adequately replace the versatile forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nugent-Hopkins frequently surfaced in trade rumors over the previous two seasons. His solid play this season and the Oilers’ improvement in the standings silenced that chatter for the most part. However, he could resurface in next season’s rumor mill he’s still unsigned as the trade deadline approaches.
As Mitchell observes, the salary cap will determine what the Oilers can afford to re-sign Nugent-Hopkins. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $48 million invested in nine players for 2021-22.
Some of that cap room will be taken up this year by re-signing or replacing such notables as Mike Smith, Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Riley Sheahan. Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, Adam Larsson, and Kris Russell will be among those due for new contracts in 2021.
Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2021-22, there should be enough to accommodate a $7.5 million AAV for Nugent-Hopkins. His performance next season will also be a determining factor.
LATEST ON THE SABRES
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski and Mike Harrington weighed in on which notable players the Sabres should retain.
They were split on Rasmus Ristolainen, as Lysowski pointed to the regression in the blueliner’s play. Moving him could fetch some scoring help and free up cap room to sign a free-agent rearguard like Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ristolainen often comes up as a Sabres’ trade candidate. However, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger indicated last week they still consider the 25-year-old defenseman among their core players. If so, that suggests Ristolainen won’t be shopped.
Both believe Brandon Montour should be traded. The 26-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent and they feel there’s no room for his style of play in Krueger’s system. He could bring the Sabres a second- or third-line forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have depth on the blueline but need more on their forward lines. If Ristolainen isn’t shopped, Montour could become the likely candidate. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility and has arbitration rights this year. Ristolainen, on the other hand, is under contract through 2021-22.
They also split on Jimmy Vesey, with Harrington believing he’s not the scoring winger he was projected to become.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m with Harrington on this one. A highly-touted college player, Vesey’s struggled in the NHL.
Both believe the Sabres should re-sign UFA winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year deal, part ways with UFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Michael Frolik, and Vladimir Sobotka, and attempt to trade goalie Carter Hutton.
NHL.COM: Max Domi’s overtime goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 5-4 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Habs overcame a 4-2 deficit on goals by Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher to force the extra frame. Domi and Tatar each had a goal and an assist. Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty collected an assist against his former club for his 500th career NHL point. Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi missed the game as he’s listed as day-to-day with a groin injury.
The Calgary Flames overcame 2-0, 4-1, and 5-4 deficits to burn the Nashville Predators 6-5 on a between-the-legs overtime goal by Matthew Tkachuk, who also tallied the game-tying goal. Tkachuk and Sean Monahan finished with three points apiece. Predators winger Auston Watson celebrated his new three-year, $4.5-million contract extension with a four-point performance. Teammate Calle Jarnkrok also tallied twice.
TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien could require up to four months to recover from recent ankle surgery. His agent is in discussions with the NHL Players Association as they review his case. it could have financial complications if it’s determined he injured his ankle playing hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien is on a leave of absence mulling his future and was suspended without pay for salary-cap purposes. He underwent this surgery in his home state of Minnesota without informing the team.
General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff shed little light on the situation, raising speculation of a difference of opinion between the player and the organization over the status of his injured ankle. The silence from both sides only generates more questions over the future of Byfuglien’s playing career. For the time being, it seems increasingly likely he won’t be back with the Jets this season.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets got more bad news as center Mark Letestu has been sidelined by a heart virus (myocarditis) for six months. Winger Patrik Laine remains sidelined with a minor lower-body injury. Center Bryan Little left practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury and could miss tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letestu is expected to make a full recovery but he’ll miss the remainder of the regular season.
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has hired a lawyer to investigate how his name became associated with a Russian virtual reality start-up that reportedly lost millions of dollars. The report claimed Malkin invested $4 million into the company, which used his name to attract other investors. He denied investing in the company.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Speaking of the Penguins, they’ve assigned Sam Lafferty to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
CBS SPORTS: Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Buffalo Sabres winger Jimmy Vesey (lower body) has been upgraded from week-to-week to day-to-day. San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings forward Tyler Toffoli was a healthy scratch during Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli is an unrestricted free agent in July. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to this move.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks have recalled defenseman Adam Boqvist.
The Charlotte Checkers have released Jamie McGinn from his professional tryout offer.
Had been hearing the Landeskog mystery LBI was a broken foot. Not confirmed but he is wearing a walking boot on his right foot.
— AJ Haefele (@AJHaefele) October 31, 2019
Game recaps, the Penguins trade Erik Gudbranson to the Ducks, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Washington Capitals overcame a 5-1 deficit to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 6-5 on a shootout goal by Nicklas Backstrom. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny each scored twice for the Capitals. Tim Schaller tallied two goals while Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat each collected two assists for the Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals gave the young Canucks an invaluable lesson. Never sit on a big lead against a talented veteran club.
Third-period goals by Barrett Hayton and Clayton Keller lifted the Arizona Coyotes to a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Jason Demers collected three assists while Nick Schmaltz and Oliver Ekman-Larsson each had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who’ve won six of their last eight contests. Devils rookie Jack Hughes scored a goal and set up two others. Devils defenseman Will Butcher returned from injured reserve while Connor Carrick (upper body) was placed on IR.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After a shaky start the Coyotes are playing well of late. Their once-sputtering offense has significantly improved in recent games.
Speaking of surging teams, the New York Islanders picked up their sixth consecutive victory by doubling up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Nick Leddy scored twice, including on a penalty shot, and collected an assist. Tyler Ennis tallied twice for the Senators.
Nathan MacKinnon extended his points streak to 10 games with two assists in a 6-1 thumping of the Vegas Golden Knights. Former Golden Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare collected three points while Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert each scored twice for the Avs. Golden Knights starter Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled after giving up four goals on 26 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t Fleury’s fault. He had little defensive support in this contest.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark posted a 41-save performance to shut out the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Sam Reinhart and Jake McCabe were the goal scorers. The Wings have dropped seven straight games. Sabres winger Jimmy Vesey and defenseman Marco Scandella were ruled out for this game. Both will be evaluated when the club returns to Buffalo. Wings forward Luke Glendening (upper body) will be sidelined two-to-four weeks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs downed the San Jose Sharks 4-1, spoiling former Leafs winger Patrick Marleau’s return to Toronto. Mitch Marner and Ilya Mikheyev each collected two points while Marleau was held scoreless.
TRIBLIVE.COM/ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday traded defenseman Erik Gudbranson to the Anaheim Ducks for minor-league forward Andreas Martinsen and a seventh-round pick in 2021. The Penguins also placed blueliner Zach Trotman on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gudbranson was linked to the Ducks in the rumor mill following their failed attempt last month to acquire Justin Faulk. He’ll bring size, toughness and a much-needed right-handed shot to the Ducks blueline. The move is not linked to Josh Manson’s recent injury.
The Penguins, meanwhile, free up invaluable salary-cap space by shedding Gudbranson’s $4 million cap hit. They’ll need that room when sidelined forwards Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk, and Bryan Rust return to the lineup.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk returned to practice yesterday showing no ill-efect from a collision in his crease during Tuesday’s contest against the Edmonton Oilers. Dubnyk was shaken up and forced to leave the game.
TSN: Former Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams has quietly resumed skating but still hasn’t reached a decision regarding his playing career. An unrestricted free agent, Williams is taking some time away from the game to consider his future.
CBS SPORTS: Calgary Flames forward Austin Czarnik is sidelined with a lower-body injury.
TSN: Winnipeg Jets forward Mason Appleton is listed as week-to-week after breaking his foot in a pickup football game
YARDBARKER: Former Washington Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly could be signing with KHL team Kunlun Red Star.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers prospect Vitali Kravtsov is returning to the KHL.
Check out the listing of today’s notable NHL free-agent signings. This will be updated throughout the day as signings become official.
The Chicago Blackhawks signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5-million contract.
The New York Islanders sign left wing Anders Lee to a seven-year, $49-million contract. The Isles also signed goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a four-year contract worth $5 million per season.
The Carolina Hurricanes sign goaltender Petr Mrazek to a two-year, $6.5-million contract.
The Montreal Canadiens have tendered an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho. The proposed contract is for five years, with an average annual value of $8.454 million.
The Montreal #Canadiens have tendered an offer sheet to RFA Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes at $8.454M x 5 years
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 1, 2019
New York Rangers sign left winger Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract. The annual average value is $11.6 million.
Florida Panthers signed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal. They also signed winger Brett Connolly to a four-year, $13-million contract, defenseman Anton Stralman to a three-year, $16.5 million contract and forward Noel Acciari to a three-year, $5-million contract.
The Nashville Predators sign center Matt Duchene to a seven-year, $56-million contract.
Dallas Stars sign center/winger Joe Pavelski to a three-year, $21-million contract. The Stars also signed winger Corey Perry on a one-year, bonus-laden contract worth up to $3.25 million. They also signed defenseman Andrej Sekera to a one-year contract with a $1.5 million base salary and $500K in bonuses.
Minnesota Wild sign winger Mats Zuccarello to a five-year, $30-million contract. The Wild also sign forward Ryan Hartman to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $1.9 million.
Vancouver Canucks sign defenseman Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30-million contract. The Canucks also signed blueliner Jordie Benn to a two-year, $4-million contract and rearguard Oscar Fantenberg to a one-year, $850K deal.
Pittsburgh Penguins sign forward Brandon Tanev to a six-year contract with an AAV of $3.5 million.
Columbus Blue Jackets sign forward Gustav Nyquist to a four-year, $22-million contract.
Washington Capitals sign forward Richard Panik to a four-year, $10-million contract and forward Garnet Hathaway to a four-year, $6-million deal.
Colorado Avalanche sign winger Joonas Donskoi to a three-year contract estimated at around $3.5 million per season. They also sign winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to a two-year, $3.6-million contract.
Chicago Blackhawks sign center Ryan Carpenter to a three-year, $3-million contract.
Detroit Red Wings sign center Valtteri Filppula to a two-year, $6-million contract. They also signed defenseman Patrik Nemeth to a two-year deal.
St. Louis Blues sign forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, $1.4-million contract.
New Jersey Devils sign winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5-million contract.
Edmonton Oilers signed goaltender Mike Smith to a one-year, $2-million contract and sign forward Markus Granlund to a one-year, $1.3-million contract. They also re-signed winger Alex Chiasson to a two-year deal worth $2.15-million per season.
Ottawa Senators sign Ron Hainsey to a one-year, $3.5-million contract and winger Tyler Ennis to a one-year, $800K contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs sign center Jason Spezza to a one-year, $700K contract.
Calgary Flames sign goaltender Cam Talbot to sign a one-year. $2.75-million contract.
Montreal Canadiens sign goaltender Keith Kinkaid to a one-year, $1.75-million contract.
Tampa Bay Lightning sign goaltender Curtis McElhinney to a two-year, $2.6-million contract. They also signed defenseman Luke Schenn to a one-year, $700K contract.
Buffalo Sabres sign forward Curtis Lazar, goaltender Andrew Hammond, and defenseman John Gilmour to one-year contracts each worth $700K. The Sabres also acquire forward Jimmy Vesey from the New York Rangers in exchange for a third-round pick in 2021.
Winnipeg Jets sign defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a one-year, $1-million contract.
Trade Alert: The New York Rangers trade Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick in 2021.