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.
THE ATHLETIC: Responding to a reader’s question yesterday, Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks will set a higher asking price for defenseman Josh Manson and winger Rickard Rakell because they each have a year remaining on their respective contracts. He feels the Ducks should seek a first-round pick and a top prospect for each player. Stephens doesn’t know if general manager Bob Murray is shopping Manson and Rakell but he’s getting a lot of calls.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With so many of the top rental players off the market perhaps there will be more interest in Manson and Rakell before the deadline.
STLTODAY.COM: Tom Timmermann reports the Blues’ recent surge back into playoff contention muddies the waters regarding their trade plans. Pending free agent winger Mike Hoffman seemed the most likely trade candidate but that may have changed due to an injury to forward Robert Thomas.
St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman (NHL Images).
It would take a significant offer and pessimism on the part of Blues’ management over contract talks to pry winger Jaden Schwartz loose. Like Hoffman, he’s a UFA this summer. So is center Tyler Bozak, who might be enticing to clubs seeking depth at center. Vince Dunn is a restricted free agent and could be appealing as an offensive defenseman.
Timmermann believes the Blues would seek draft picks to restock their prospect pipeline.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers need a left-winger, a second-pairing defenseman and a third-line center. GM Ken Holland, however, doesn’t want to part with a first-round pick or a Grade-A prospect for a rental player. He’s also hampered by limited salary-cap space. Matheson speculates Holland could wait and see if the price drops for pending UFAs such as the Blues’ Mike Hoffman or the Philadelphia Flyers’ Scott Laughton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland could pursue a player or two with term on their contracts. That will require some salary-cap creativity as we saw in the Savard and Foligno trades over the weekend in which a third-team used their cap space to broker a deal.
CALGARY SUN: Wes Gilbertson believes Sam Bennett is the Flames’ most valuable trade chip approaching the deadline. However, the fact he’s still in Calgary over two months following his agent’s public trade request suggests any offers have been underwhelming.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bennett’s a restricted free agent this summer so Flames GM Brad Treliving doesn’t have to move him at the deadline. He could wait for a better offer during the offseason before the Seattle expansion draft.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell recently mentioned a right-shot defenseman and an extra forward as trade deadline possibilities. He speculated Waddell may have had discussions with the Ducks about Josh Manson or the Los Angeles Kings about Sean Walker. Both are right-shot defenders with term remaining on their contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We know the asking price for Manson could be expensive. The Kings could be reluctant to part with Walker as he’s in the first season of a four-year deal with a $2.65 million annual average value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was reported yesterday the Penguins had acquired Deslauriers but that was subsequently walked back. Perhaps it was because they were in the process of acquiring Jeff Carter from the Kings. We’ll find out later today if they revisit a Deslauriers deal.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks expects a quiet trade deadline for the Rangers. He believes GM Jeff Gorton would listen if he received offers for Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich or Mika Zibanejad to perhaps lay the groundwork for offseason deals. However, they haven’t gotten any such inquires.
Brooks also believes the Rangers could buy out the final season of banished defenseman Tony DeAngelo’s contract this summer if he’s not traded at the deadline or selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
The Blackhawks’ cap space remains their hottest commodity for cap-strapped clubs seeking a third-party broker to facilitate a trade. They could also listen to offers for pending RFA defenseman Nikita Zadorov but they aren’t actively shopping him.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is a fixture in the rumor mill but his $4.5 million annual cap hit over the next two years makes him difficult to move. Hall also doesn’t rule out the possibility of young forward Nolan Patrick as a trade option for a second-round pick.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mark McIntyre reports Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff won’t mortgage his club’s future for a rental player to bolster his blueline. He does have draft picks to use as trade bait and can add a salary with Bryan Little on long-term injury reserve.
McIntyre believes a rental player is a likely route. He suggested defense targets as New Jersey’s Dmitry Kulikov, Ryan Murray Sami Vatanen, or Ottawa’s rugged Erik Gudbranson. Others include Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak or Detroit’s Marc Staal.
Recaps of Wednesday’s action, more game postponements, plus the latest on Henrik Lundqvist, Petr Mrazek, Blake Wheeler and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins overcame a 3-1 deficit to upset the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on an overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron. David Pastrnak tallied a hat trick, including the Bruins’ final two goals in regulation to force the extra frame. He also had an assist on Bergeron’s winner while the Bruins’ captain also collected three assists.
Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears Pastrnak is quickly returning to game shape following his recovery from offseason hip surgery. That was an impressive performance on his part in the third period. Penalties proved costly for the Flyers as the Bruins’ final three goals all came on the power play.
Three goals within the first five minutes of the first period power the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Victor Hedman and Blake Coleman each had two points. The Red Wings are winless in their last seven contests.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild’s schedule is on pause to at least next Tuesday after five more players were added to their COVID-19 protocol list. Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson and Jared Spurgeon joined Marcus Foligno on the list.
THE DENVER POST: One of the postponed Wild games involved Thursday’s contest with the Colorado Avalanche, who placed forward Tyson Jost on the COVID-19 protocol list.
WGR 550: Tobias Rieder and Brandon Montour have joined Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen on the Buffalo Sabres COVID-19 protocol list. The Sabres schedule is paused until at least Feb. 8 with four games postponed.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Defenseman John Marino is the first member of the Penguins to be placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist is in good spirits and said he’s feeling well a month after undergoing open-heart surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik in his ongoing recovery.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek has undergone surgery on his right thumb. A timetable for his return is expected in the next several days.
THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice ripped into critics of captain Blake Wheeler’s defensive play. “He’s got f*****g 11 points in 10 games,” said Maurice. While he doesn’t have a problem with criticism of Wheeler’s play, he claims he wants it to be accurate. “You’ll do your deep dives and analytics, and god, they do a horses**t job of telling you what five guys do.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler has been on the ice for more five-on-five goals against the Jets than the rest of his teammates. It’s fair to note that point but Maurice is right to say it doesn’t tell the whole story of his overall performance.
CBS SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Sean Walker is expected to be sidelined two-to-four weeks after undergoing surgery on his nose. He took a slapshot to the face during a recent game against the Minnesota Wild.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators placed defenseman Braydon Coburn on waivers.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers assistant general manager Chris Drury has taken himself out of the running for the vacant position of Pittsburgh Penguins GM.
TSN: Hockey Canada announced St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has been named GM of Canada’s Men’s Olympic Hockey Team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Joining him will be Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland, Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis, Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney and Florida Panthers executive Roberto Luongo.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators will make a limited number of tickets available for six February home games beginning Friday.
Islanders get their first win of the Eastern Conference Final, Nathan MacKinnon wins the Lady Byng Trophy, the Penguins trade Nick Bjugstad to the Wild, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brock Nelson’s tie-breaking goal late in the third period powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the third before Nelson scored and Jean-Gabriel Pageau netted the insurance goal. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for the win.
The Lightning leads the best-of-seven series two games to one. They were without two regulars in this contest. Winger Alex Killorn served a one-game suspension for boarding Nielsen in Game 2. Center Brayden Point was unfit to play following an undisclosed injury in Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Isles to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the series. It appeared the Lightning were going to pull off a come-from-behind victory but the Isles proved their mettle in this one. Their top-six forwards led the way with Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier each netting a goal and an assist while Josh Bailey collected two assists.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is this year’s winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best displays sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability. He took just five minor penalties during the regular season while finishing fifth in points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Nick Bjugstad last night to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2021. The 28-year-old center has a year remaining on his contract. Cap Friendly indicates they’re retaining $2.050 million of Bjugstad’s $4.1 million salary-cap hit for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired by the Penguins from the Florida Panthers in February 2019, Bjugstad was frequently sidelined by injuries, limited to just 13 games this season. He’ll get a chance to get his career back on track in his hometown next season. This is a salary dump by the Penguins as they attempt to clear some cap space, perhaps for other offseason moves.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner rejected a report yesterday claiming he and the Golden Knights agreed to a five-year, $25-million contract back in June. “Yeah, well, it’s not true,” said Lehner. “You know, you have some talks and kind of (discuss) where you’re at, what you want to do. Nothing has been finalized.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report might not be true but Lehner seems to suggest his camp has had some discussions with Golden Knights management. We know Lehner seeks stability after bouncing from Buffalo to the Islanders to the Blackhawks to Vegas since 2018. Perhaps he’ll find it with the Golden Knights. If so, that will only stoke speculation about Marc-Andre Fleury’s future with the club.
The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually from Oct. 6 and 7. The first round begins at 7 pm ET on Oct. 6, with rounds 2 through 7 taking place the following day beginning at 11:30 am ET. Broadcast times to be determined.
The Bruins become the first team to reach 100 points this season, Mika Zibanejad and Filip Forsberg set franchise records with their respective clubs and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask kicked out 36 shots to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0, snapping the latter’s nine-game winning streak. Matt Grzelcyk and Patrice Bergeron were the goal scorers as the league-leading Bruins became the first team to reach 100 points this season. The Flyers played without defenseman Philippe Myers, who’s sidelined at least four weeks with a fractured patella in his right knee.
Mika Zibanejad is the fastest player to score 40 goals in New York Rangers history (Photo via NHL Images).
Mika Zibanejad became the fastest player to reach 40 goals in New York Rangers history in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Rookie Kaapo Kakko scored twice for the Rangers (78 points), who sit three points out of an Eastern wild-card berth. The slumping Stars (82 points) sit third in the Central Division, but they’re winless in their last six contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering how many great scorers the Rangers have had in their long history, that’s quite an achievement by Zibanejad.
The Nashville Predators (78 points) moved into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference by doubling up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. Filip Forsberg scored twice, becoming the first player in Predators’ history to register six 20-goal seasons. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced leading scorer Tomas Tatar is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Auston Matthews’ 47th goal of the season was also the game-winner as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. Teammate Mitch Marner collected two assists as the Leafs (81 points) opened a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division. Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly returned to action for the first time after suffering a broken foot nearly two months ago. The Lightning are eight points behind the Bruins.
Evgeni Malkin scored twice and picked up an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New Jersey Devils 5-2. With 86 points, the Penguins sit third in the Metropolitan Division. Earlier in the day, the Penguins announced center Nick Bjugstad is considered week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.
Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian tallied twice and added an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek made 23 saves in his first game since being sidelined by a concussion in late February. With 81 points, the Canes move into the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Wings, meanwhile, have the dubious honor of clinching last place in the overall standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The silver lining for the Wings is they have the best odds of winning the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
The struggling New York Islanders winless skid reached seven games as they fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks. Brock Nelson scored twice for the Isles while Thatcher Demko made 45 saves for the Canucks (78 points), who moved back into the second Western wild-card berth, The Isles (80 points) sit one point out of an Eastern wild-card spot.
A natural hat trick by Nicolas Deslauriers carried the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon’s status remains uncertain after suffering a lower-body injury during Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar is expected to provide an update later today. Meanwhile, the Avs announced former Colorado Rockies stars and MLB Hall-of-Famer Larry Walker will be their honorary emergency backup goalie during Sunday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues placing Troy Brouwer on waivers has raised speculation sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko could be nearing a return from shoulder surgery.
CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic could return to action against the Islanders on Thursday.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets assigned Mark Letestu to their AHL affiliate for a conditioning stint. A diagnosis of myocarditis sidelined him for all but seven games this season.
THE SCORE: The Columbus Blue Jackets will continue to allow fans at their home games despite the Ohio governor’s recommendation that indoor sports events be held without spectators over coronavirus concerns. The team has recommended those fans at higher risk, including the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, should avoid these events.
Game recaps, Kings fire head coach John Stevens, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Cam Fowler tallied a hat trick, including the winner in overtime, in the Anaheim Ducks’ 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets to snap a seven-game losing skid. The Ducks played without captain Ryan Getzlaf, who’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Cam Fowler’s hat trick carried the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo via NHL Images)
Brayden Point’s last-minute game-tying goal set the stage for Yanni Gourde’s overtime winner to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh collected three assists. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 41 saves.
Henrik Lundqvist kicked out 39 shots and Jimmy Vesey scored two goals as the New York Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1. The Rangers played without defenseman Adam McQuaid, who’s listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings fired head coach John Stevens, naming Willie Desjardins and Marco Sturm as interim coaches.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Kings mired at the bottom of the Western Conference, management had to do something to keep the season from spiraling out of control. A coaching change, however, might not be enough. I’ll have more on this later this morning in the Rumors section.
PHILLY.COM: Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott left practice on Sunday holding his head following a collision with teammate Travis Konecny. An update on his condition is expected today.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets forward Nic Petan made his return to the lineup on Friday after missing most of training camp and the first 13 games of the season due to the sudden death of his father. He’s appreciative of the support he received from the team and the league.