NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2021

Niklas Hjalmarsson to retire, the Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal, the Canucks to buy out Jake Virtanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. Morgan doesn’t anticipate he’ll make a formal announcement.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hjalmarsson, 34, spent 14 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Coyotes. A shutdown defenseman, his best years were with the Blackhawks as he helped them win three Stanley Cups during his 10 seasons with the franchise. He finishes with 172 points in 821 career NHL games. Best of luck to Hjalmarsson and his family in their future endeavors.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year, $2 million contract. The deal also includes a no-movement clause.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal proved to be a valuable addition to the Red Wings. The 34-year-old provided experience, leadership and stability to the rebuilding club’s defense corps. He hopes to become a mentor this season to promising Wings blueliner Moritz Seider, who’s expected to make his NHL debut in 2021-22.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers yesterday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen was once considered a promising offensive forward but he failed to play up to expectations. His recent questionable off-ice behavior also became an issue. The Canucks attempted to trade the 24-year-old winger during this season but reportedly couldn’t find any suitable offers. He’s been on leave from the club since May 1 following a sexual misconduct allegation.

THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets are expected to keep their goaltending tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo intact to start the 2021-22 season. Both are entering the final year of their contracts. It was anticipated one of them would be traded this summer but the tragic death of promising Matiss Kivlenieks on July 4 changed that plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps one of them will be shopped later in the season if the Jackets are out of playoff contention before the February trade deadline.

CAP FRIENDLY: The St. Louis Blues signed forward Nathan Walker to a two-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $750K at the NHL level.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 7, 2021

A look at some of this summer’s potential buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli listed 10 buyout candidates who could enter this summer’s free-agent market. The first window for contract buyouts opens 24 hours following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final and closes at 5 PM EST on July 27.

Tony DeAngelo is expected to be bought out of his contract later this month (NHL Images).

Topping his list is New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. The Blueshirts have reportedly finalized plans to buy out the final season ($4.8 million annual average value) of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeAngelo has played his final game with the Rangers. While his defensive game needs work he’s a skillful puck-moving blueliner. Given his personal baggage, however, the question is whether another NHL club will take a chance on him. Rumors linked him to the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens before the April 12 trade deadline.

Edmonton Oilers winger James Neal, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, Florida Panthers blueliner Keith Yandle and San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones were among the top-five candidates.

Seravalli pointed out Oilers general manager Ken Holland has hinted at buying out one or two contracts this summer. The 33-year-old Neal has two years with an annual average value of $5.75 million.

Johnson missed all but four games this season to injury but Seravalli observed he wasn’t on the list of players exempted from the upcoming expansion draft due to injury. He suggested placing Johnson on long-term injury reserve might be the better way to go for the Avs. Johnson has two years left at $6 million annually.

Yandle was a healthy scratch during the Panthers’ playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 34-year-old has two years remaining on his deal with an AAV of $6.35 million.

Seravalli suggests the Sharks buy out Jones and use the cap savings to put toward his replacement. The 31-year-old netminder has three years remaining at $5.75 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could buy out Neal but there’s also talk of shipping him to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Duncan Keith, whereby the Blackhawks would buy him out.

Putting Johnson on LTIR sounds like a better option. However, a buyout might be the only choice if it appears he’ll be healthy to return next season. The Avs need cap space to re-sign Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Gabriel Landeskog.

Yandle surfaced in the rumor mill back in January when it appeared he would become a healthy scratch to start the season, putting his Ironman streak in jeopardy. That talk died down when the 34-year-old blueliner never missed a game during the regular season.

There might be a trade market for Yandle if he agrees to waive his no-movement clause. However, the Panthers would either have to absorb part of his cap hit, take back a bad contract, or try to work a three-way deal.

Jones has really struggled over the last three seasons. The Sharks need more consistency between the pipes. Buying him out, however, would result in six years of dead cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly) totaling over $12 million.

Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise is No. 6 on Seravalli’s list. He suggests they “bite the bullet” and use the savings for next season to re-sign Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Parise buyout seems unlikely. It’s eight years of dead cap space. They’d get a $2.3 million cap hit for next season, but it jumps to over $6.3 million in 2022-23 and over $7.3 million annually for the following two seasons. The only real cap relief would come in the final four years at over $833k per season.

Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen, Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop, Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron, and Anaheim Ducks winger Sonny Milano round out the top-10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks tried to trade Virtanen but couldn’t find any takers. A buyout seems likely given his on-ice struggles and off-ice issues.

Bishop missed all of the 2021-22 schedule recovering from knee surgery but Seravalli indicated he worked out with the club toward the end of the season. He could be bought out if healthy but they might not go that route if Anton Khudobin is selected in the expansion draft. Seravalli suggests a buyout of Bishop would enable them to protect Khudobin as Jake Oettinger is exempt but that might not be in their plans.

Seravalli pointed out the Canadiens put Byron on waivers three times during the regular season. However, his performance in this year’s playoffs probably means he’ll be back next season. The Habs could consider other options to free up some cap space.

Milano only played six games last season with the Ducks. With a year left on his contract at $1.7 million, he could become a buyout candidate, though the savings ($500K) are minimal.

Seravalli also suggested keeping an eye on Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen, Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman, Detroit Red Wings blueliner Danny DeKeyser and Los Angeles Kings rearguard Olli Maatta.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 11, 2021

The Golden Knights advance to the semifinals, the Hart Trophy finalists are revealed, the Blue Jackets hire a new head coach and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights are heading to the semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs after eliminating the Colorado Avalanche with a 6-3 victory in Game 6 of their second-round series. Alex Pietrangelo snapped a 3-3 tie late in the second period with what proved to be the winning goal, with William Carrier and Max Pacioretty putting the game away in the third period. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar missed practice due to an irregularity in his COVID-19 test result but was cleared to be behind the bench for Game 6.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex PIetrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights’ depth made the difference as they overcame a 2-0 series deficit with four straight victories. They were built for the heavy going of playoff action and it showed as this series progressed. The speedy Avs were outstanding during the regular season and made short work of the struggling St. Louis Blues but they couldn’t match the Golden Knights’ grinding physical style.

The Stanley Cup Semifinals schedule indicates the Golden Knights will face the Montreal Canadiens beginning Monday, June 14 in Las Vegas. The Tampa Bay Lightning will square off against the New York Islanders on Sunday, June 13 in Tampa Bay.

Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid are this year’s finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy.

THE ATHLETIC: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton had some choice words for the Tampa Bay Lightning in his end-of-season press conference on Thursday. “We lost to a team that was $18 million over the cap or whatever they are,” he said. Hamilton’s Hurricanes were eliminated by the Lightning from the second round in five games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton wasn’t far off in that assessment as Cap Friendly shows the Lightning used $17.3 million in long-term injury reserve this season, in part because top-line right winger Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million) missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery. That gave Bolts management sufficient cap relief to maintain their roster, including the addition of defenseman David Savard at the trade deadline.

Critics accused the Lightning of gaming the system but what they did is allowable under the collective bargaining agreement. As long as a team can prove to the league that a player cannot play during the regular season for medical reasons, they’re allowed to keep them on LTIR until the playoffs, when the cap no longer applies. That rule is applicable for all NHL teams.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Brad Larsen has been named their new head coach. He spent the past seven years with the club as an assistant coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting move by the Jackets in promoting from within rather than looking outside their organization for a new bench boss. His familiarity with the players and the team could make for a smooth transition as the Jackets prepare for what could be a roster rebuild after several notable players departed via trades and free agency in recent years.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames hired Kirk Muller as an associate coach. Muller held the same title with the Montreal Canadiens until relieved of his duties in February.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith underwent core-muscle surgery on Thursday. His recovery time is expected to be six to eight weeks

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen has denied allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in 2017.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed forward Devin Shore to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday worth $1.7 million. The annual average value is $850K. On Thursday, forward Gaetan Haas signed a five-year deal with EHC Biel in Switzerland. He spent the past two seasons with the Oilers.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 22, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 22, 2021

Could Nazem Kadri’s latest suspension turn him into an offseason trade candidate? What’s the latest on the Canucks and Senators? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD KADRI BECOME AN OFFSEASON TRADE CANDIDATE?

THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh yesterday examined the fallout of Nazem Kadri’s then-pending suspension for the Colorado Avalanche lineup during their series with the St. Louis Blues. Kadri received an eight-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk during Game 2 of their opening-round series.

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).

Baugh pointed out Kadri was traded in 2019 to the Avalanche by the Toronto Maple Leafs following two playoff suspensions. He wondered if the 30-year-old center could face the same fate again this summer.

The Avalanche have two young centers in Tyson Jost and Alex Newhook working their way up the depth chart. They must also shed salary to re-sign core players such as captain Gabriel Landeskog, goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Cale Makar.

Kadri carries a $4.5 million salary-cap hit. Baugh speculates the Avs could explore trade options this summer or leave Kadri unprotected in the expansion draft.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes the Avalanche should cut ties with Kadri as soon as possible. He feels whatever value he brings to their lineup is overshadowed by his reckless play and unwillingness to adjust his style.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision, of course, rests with Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. Whether he sees things the same way as Kadri’s critics among Avs followers remains to be seen.

If Sakic decides Kadri must go he’ll probably go the trade route rather than lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. While the latter is an easy way to shed Kadri’s salary if the Seattle Kraken select him (and I think they would), Sakic would probably want to get something in return for him.

Despite his suspension history, Kadri would still be an enticing commodity in the trade market. His 10-team no-trade clause would be a bit of a sticking point but not insurmountable.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND SENATORS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning takes responsibility for his club’s failure to reach the playoffs this season. He also dropped hints as to his offseason plans for the roster.

Contract buyouts are on the table. Johnston listed Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson and even Jake Virtanen as potential candidates, though the latter’s legal situation could make things murky.

Benning said none of his players have asked for a trade. He also indicated he would be aggressive in the trade and free-agent market in search of more offense.

Johnston noted there’s currently no third-line center as Brandon Sutter is due to become an unrestricted free agent and best-suited for fourth-line work. Benning also feels they need more speed up front and veteran leadership.

Steve Ewen reported Alex Edler hasn’t heard from the team yet but he’d love to remain with the Canucks. The 35-year-old defenseman is due to become a UFA this summer. Sutter also indicated a willingness to return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks production was down this season (2.64 goals per game compared to last season’s 3.21). However, that was due to Elias Pettersson’s season-ending wrist injury in early March and most of the roster being waylaid by a COVID-19 outbreak for nearly three weeks in April.

I believe the Canucks’ biggest need is shoring up their blueline and checking lines. Last season, the Canucks had a goals-against per game of 3.10, their penalty killing percentage was 80.4 and they gave up 33.3 shots-against per game. This year, their goals-against was 3.34, the PK percentage was 79.8 while their shots-against was 33.4.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch noted Senators owner Eugene Melnyk spoke about his club’s roster needs during an interview earlier this week with Bob McCown.

Melnyk is confident his club will re-sign Brady Tkachuk to a contract extension. The 21-year-old winger is completing his entry-level contract. Garrioch recently reported the expectation is Tkachuk will receive a lucrative long-term deal instead of a bridge contract.

The Senators owner also feels his team needs a “good defensive defenseman” and “a veteran-type first-line center” but acknowledged those types of players are easy to come by.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Re-signing Tkachuk should be the easy part for the Senators. They could be forced to continue building with youth while augmenting their ranks with affordable veteran depth before they’re in a position to address those needs cited by Melnyk.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2021

The Bruins tied their series with the Capitals, the Avalanche and Hurricanes draw first blood in their respective series, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Brad Marchand’s goal 39 seconds into overtime lifted the Boston Bruins over the Washington Capitals 4-3 to even their best-of-seven first-round series at one game apiece. Boston winger Taylor Hall scored the tying goal late in the third period to send the game into the extra frame. Garnet Hathaway scored twice for Washington, who got a 44-save performance from goaltender Craig Anderson. Capitals center Lars Eller left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Questionable officiating saw this game deteriorate into a sloppy contest. Game 3 goes Wednesday evening in Boston.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (NHL Images)

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and set up another in a series-opening 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists as the Avalanche broke the game open with three goals in the third period. Jordan Binnington kicked out 46 shots for the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Binnington was the only reason this game was tied through two periods before the Avs blew it open in the final frame. This series will end quickly if he doesn’t get more help from his teammates. Games 2 is on Wednesday evening.

The Carolina Hurricanes got two goals from captain Jordan Staal to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-2 in Game 1 of their first-round series. Nino Niederreiter tallied the game-winner by snapping a 2-2 tie early in the third period. Juuse Saros turned aside 33 shots for the Predators.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators defeated the Hurricanes in the final two games of the season but the latter took six of eight in their regular-season series. The Canes dominated the play through the final two periods of this one. The two sides face off again in Game 2 on Wednesday.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and winger Brendan Gallagher played in the Laval Rocket’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies last night. Price and Gallagher were on a long-term injury conditioning stint with the Habs’ farm club before their opening-round series against the Maple Leafs. Price allowed two goals on 15 shots while Gallagher had two shots on goal and a double-minor penalty for high-sticking.

ESPN.COM: The NHL department of player discipline handed a one-game suspension to Florida Panthers forward Sam Bennett for boarding Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman in Game 1 of their series on Sunday.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs promoted Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser to senior director of player development and Danielle Goyette has joined the department as a director.

Speaking of the Leafs, TSN’s Kristen Shilton reports defenseman Ben Hutton has a non-COVID, non-hockey-related medical issue that is being monitored by the team.

NEW YORK POST: ESPN hired Leah Hextall as the first woman to do play-by-play as a regular part of a national NHL TV package. She did play-by-play of an NHL game last season for Sportsnet.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall previously worked for CTV Winnipeg, NESN and Sportsnet. Hockey runs in her family. She’s a cousin of Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall and her grandfather was Hall of Famer Bryan Hextall. 

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: Veteran NHL reporter Frank Seravalli has decided to leave TSN after six seasons. Speculation suggests he might join ESPN or Turner Sports ahead of their coverage of the NHL starting next season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have offered up Canadian Tire Centre to the city and the province of Ontario as a mass vaccination site.

TSN: A civil lawsuit has been filed against Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen alleging he sexually assaulted a young woman in 2017.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: A lawyer representing a former Chicago Blackhawks player in a sexual assault lawsuit against the team intends to call a former teammate to the stand as a witness in the case.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars signed forward Tanner Kero to a two-year, two-way contract.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – May 15, 2021

In today’s NHL rumor mill, Drew Doughty calls upon Kings management to add experienced depth plus a look ahead at possible offseason moves by the Senators and Canucks.

DOUGHTY WANTS KINGS TO MAKE BIG MOVES THIS OFFSEASON

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites Drew Doughty calling upon Los Angeles Kings management to bring in more experience to their rebuilding roster. The 31-year-old defenseman feels he and veteran teammates Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown are running out of time.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (NHL Images).

Doughty acknowledged the club’s been rebuilding but feels they have the salary-cap space to make some big moves. “There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, hungry to win, and sick of losing,” he said. When asked if he’d be happy if big moves aren’t made, Doughty simply replied, “No.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings general manager Rob Blake has patiently built up his roster with promising youngsters but his veteran core wants to return to playoff contention and a shot at winning the Stanley Cup again.

Doughty has six more seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $11 million. Kopitar has three more at $10 million annually, Quick has two years at $5.8 million and Brown one year at $5.875 million. Blake could trade one or two of those players but their age or hefty contracts would be difficult to move.

Cap Friendly shows the Kings with over $20 million in cap space for 2021-22 with all their core players under contract. There’s room to make a big offseason move to accelerate the rebuild. That’s why the Kings have been linked to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel in recent trade rumors.

We’ll have to wait and see what Blake has in store for his roster this summer. If he sticks with his current plan, however, he’ll have an unhappy No. 1 defenseman on his hands. And that will raise questions about Doughty’s future in Los Angeles.

LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND SENATORS

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance included reallocating salary-cap space among his list of offseason priorities for the Vancouver Canucks. Once restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are re-signed, there won’t be enough cap room to rebuild the blueline, upgrade their bottom-six forwards and add a top-six winger.

They could get some relief if the Seattle Kraken select goalie Braden Holtby (4.3 million) in this summer’s expansion draft. A contract buyout or two is possible. Drance also proposed bundling a future asset to move an additional contract or attempt to move Micheal Ferland’s contract to a cap-strapped team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $65 million tied up in 15 players. Most of that will be used up signing Pettersson and Hughes.

GM Jim Benning could be squeezed by the Kraken for a draft pick to take Holtby off his hands. Ferland and Jay Beagle could start next season on long-term injury reserve. However, it would be less complicated if one or both could be shipped to teams better equipped than the Canucks to carry those contracts. Those moves also mean including a draft pick, prospect or young NHL-ready player into the deal.

Benning attempted to trade disappointing winger Jake Virtanen this season but couldn’t find any takers. His $3.4 million in actual salary for next season combined with his recent off-ice issues could give Benning little choice but to buy out Virtanen.

THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes includes the acquisition of a top-four defenseman among his suggested offseason priorities for the Ottawa Senators. He feels they need a veteran blueliner who can log over 20 minutes per game.

Mendes proposed targeting teams with expansion draft protection issues or those with salary-cap issues in the trade market. They could also go the free-agent route.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators want to add another center and perhaps a top-four defenseman. GM Pierre Dorion could attempt to address those needs from within but could shop around first.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have over $53 million invested in 17 players with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson as their notable free agents. They’ll have plenty of salary cap room once those two are re-signed, but that depends on how close to the $81.5 million cap owner Eugene Melnyk is willing to spend.