NHL Gold & Mold: The Duke Reigns Supreme, Flames Fired Up Under Ward
Cam Ward retires with the Hurricanes, the Islanders re-sign Anthony Beauvillier, plus the latest on Zach Werenski, Andrei Markov, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Cam Ward yesterday signed a one-day contract with the Carolina Hurricanes and officially announced his retirement.
The 35-year-old goaltender spent all but one of his 14 NHL seasons with the Hurricanes, backstopping them to the Stanley Cup in 2006 and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. “He holds franchise records for career regular-season games (668), wins (318) winning percentage (.557), shutouts (27) and saves (17,261).”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ward was the Hurricanes’ franchise goalie for most of his tenure in Carolina. From 2006-07 to 2011-12 he won 30-or-more games five times.
Unfortunately, he spent the bulk of his time playing on some bad Hurricanes clubs. Mounting injuries also affected his performance as his career went on. Had he been healthier and played on better teams throughout his career, perhaps he would’ve received more serious consideration as a Vezina Trophy candidate.
SPORTSNET: The New York Islanders signed forward Anthony Beauvillier to a two-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed but Cap Friendly reports the contract is worth $4.2 million with an annual average value of $2.1 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Beauvillier is coming off an entry-level contract. After netting 21 goals and 36 points in 71 games in 2017-18, his production slid last season to 18 goals and 28 points in 82 contests last season. The versatile forward also saw a drop in his penalty-killing time. That decline likely accounts for the modest raise.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane called out racism in hockey after a fan told him to “stick to basketball” in a recent Instagram comment. Kane claims another fan shouts a similar remark during a playoff game in Colorado last spring.
THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen expressed concern over the possibility Zach Werenski’s contract negotiations could carry over into training camp. “When it goes to training camp time, it takes away from that preparation. It takes away from the team. That’s what I’m concerned about.”
TSN: Andrei Markov has hired player agent Allan Walsh as he eyes a return to the NHL. The 40-year-old defenseman played his entire NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens but spent the past two seasons in the KHL. Markov would prefer returning to the Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen if the Habs share his interest in a reunion. I’ll have more on Markov in the Rumors section.
WGR550.COM: A neck injury will sidelined Buffalo Sabres defenseman Matt Hunwick for the entire 2019-20 season. He will be placed on long-term injury reserve.
TORONTO SUN: Hockey analysts Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean are leaving Sportsnet.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t always agree with Kypreos and MacLean but they are well-connected and respected within the broadcasting community. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them landing with other networks in Canada or the United States.
BARRIE TODAY: Former Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Meger passed away at age 90. Meger won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1953. His NHL career was cut short by a head injury after just five seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Meger family and friends.
Update on the best available unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: recently updated their list of the top available NHL unrestricted free agents by position.
Thomas Vanek, Patrick Marleau, and Pat Maroon top their list of left-wingers. Joe Thornton, Derick Brassard, Brian Boyle, and Riley Sheahan are their notable centers. The noteworthy right-wingers include Justin Williams and Jason Pominville.
Jake Gardiner, Niklas Kronwall, Ben Hutton, and Dion Phaneuf remain among the available defensemen while Cam Ward is the noteworthy goaltender.
NHL.COM: lists Williams, Marleau, and Thornton as the best available forwards, Gardiner, Hutton, Kronwall, and Phaneuf as the top defensemen, and Ward the best available goaltender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing’s changed with this listing since late July. Kevin Shattenkirk was briefly on this list following his buyout by the New York Rangers but was quickly signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Gardiner is still the best player on the open market. There’s some speculation suggesting he could return to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some think he’s got a “handshake agreement” with a team that’s waiting to clear sufficient salary-cap to fit him in. Considering how slow things are right now, we probably won’t find out where Gardiner lands until training camps open next month.
The Hurricanes are still awaiting word whether Williams intends to return for another season or retire. He’s not expected to consider playing with another NHL club this season.
It’s assumed Thornton and Marleau will sign with the San Jose Sharks. With over $4.6 million in salary-cap space and all their other roster players under contract, the Sharks can afford to sign the duo to affordable one-year, bonus-laden contracts.
There’s talk the Edmonton Oilers could have interest in Brassard as a checking-line center. It’s rumored his representatives seek $4-million per season. At this stage, he’ll be lucky to get half that salary on a one-year deal.
Maroon recently said he hasn’t ruled out a return with the St. Louis Blues. Earlier this summer, it was reported he sought a two-year deal but the Blues are only interested in offering a one-year contract.
The Detroit Red Wings are reportedly willing to bring back Kronwall for one more season. That’ll depend upon whether the oft-injured blueliner feels he’s healthy enough for one last NHL campaign.
Some of the players on this list could end up accepting professional tryout offers when training camps open. We’ve already seen a trickle of those signings coming in. The most notable include the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Philadelphia Flyers Michal Neuvirth and Matt Read to PTOs.
Updates on Jesse Puljujarvi and Jason Zucker plus a look at the notable players still available in the UFA market in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PULJUJARVI DOUBLES DOWN ON TRADE REQUEST
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cites Finnish newspaper Kaleva reporting Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi still wants to be traded. Unlike previous reports where Puljujarvi’s agent spoke for his client, this time it’s the winger personally making his intentions known. A restricted free agent, he said he’ll stay in Finland until he has a new contract.
‘I want a new start with some other team. Playing in North America is still my goal.” “I will stay on Oulu until I have a contract. I will find a place to play somewhere.’
Puljujarvi added he’s recovered from his recent hip surgery and feels much better. He’s hoping to be traded by the Oilers before training camp.
Staples, however, doubts Puljujarvi doubling down on his trade request will changes things much. The Oilers would need a solid trade offer to move him. That’s still possible but increasingly unlikely given clubs are now locking in their rosters “and finding ways to get out of the cap trouble that may have forced a trade.”
Staples feels the best option is for the Oilers to simply allow Puljujarvi to spend this season playing in Europe and regaining his confidence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Puljujarvi isn’t re-signed or traded when training camp opens next month, he could be forced to swallow his pride and return to the Oilers if he wants to play in the NHL. If he thinks personally telling the press he wants a trade will force Holland to move him, he’s setting himself up for disappointment.
I don’t doubt Holland has looked into trade Puljujarvi but the youngster’s stock is probably so low right now that whatever offers the Oilers received doesn’t make moving him worthwhile. Holland won’t trade him for peanuts or for the sake of making a deal.
UPDATE ON ZUCKER
NHL.COM: Jesse Pierce reports Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker was told directly by team owner Craig Leipold that Paul Fenton was relieved of his duties as general manager. Zucker, 27, was the subject of trade rumors since the middle of last season as Fenton attempted to move him to Calgary and Pittsburgh since February.
“Names get floated out there all the time, and I’m glad the trades didn’t happen,” Zucker said. “It’s always something. If it happens once, it’s in the back of your mind for a bit; if it happens twice, it’s really in the back of your mind, and it was definitely something at the forefront of my life for the last while. But again, it’s hard for me to fault [Fenton] if he thought that’s what’s best for the organization.
“Whether you agree or disagree with it, he felt those were moves that would make the team better, and ultimately Craig disagreed and didn’t like what was happening and decided to go in another direction.”
Zucker added he’s unconcerned about having to prove himself to whoever becomes the next Wild general manager. However, he feels it’s up to him and his teammates “to prove to the GM who they are, why they should keep them, and why they should be centerpieces of the team and things of that’s sort.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Fenton out of the picture, I daresay Zucker won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. He also now has a 10-team no-trade list, which could complicate attempts by the future GM to move him.
NOTABLE PLAYERS REMAINING IN NHL UFA MARKET
NBC SPORTS: Sean Leahy recently recently looked at some of the noteworthy players still available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market.
He expects veterans such as Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, and Nikla Kronwall will either return for another season with the clubs they played for in 2018-19 or retire. He also expects Patrick Marleau will sign with San Jose or hang up his skates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton and Marleau will likely get one-year, bonus-laden contracts with the San Jose Sharks. Williams is believed to be leaning toward another season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Kronwall hasn’t reached a decision yet but Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman indicated his willingness to bring back the blueliner for one more season.
Professional tryout offer candidates include goaltender Cam Ward and Scott Darling and defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Ben Lovejoy, and Marc Methot.
Age and/or injury have taken a toll on these players. They could indeed be forced to compete for jobs via tryout offers when training camps open next month. Methot is reportedly considering retirement.
Among the available forwards, Leahy lists (alphabetically) Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Patrick Maroon, Jason Pominville, and Tobia Rieder as the best of the bunch. The 26-year-old Rieder is the youngest and Leahy suggests he could be a “real bounce-back candidate” this season.
Jake Gardiner remains the best available defenseman. Ben Hutton, 26, is also available.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leahy published this listing before the New York Rangers bought out Kevin Shattenkirk. Despite his struggles with the Rangers, I expect some team will have interest in him.