NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 23, 2021

The 2021 NHL Draft begins tonight, the league releases its 2021-22 schedule, Shea Weber’s career is likely over due to injuries, the Flyers send Shayne Gostisbehere to the Coyotes, the Hurricanes trade Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings, plus much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.com: The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft gets underway at 8 pm ET tonight. Rounds two through seven will be held on Saturday. Like last year, it will be a virtual draft.

The 2021 NHL Draft begins on Friday, July 23. (NHL.com).

The Buffalo Sabres hold the first-overall pick. University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is ranked this year’s top prospect but there’s no guarantee he’ll be selected by the Sabres. Power intends to return to university this fall but Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said that won’t affect his club’s decision. The Seattle Kraken holds the second-overall selection with the Anaheim Ducks holds the third.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Check out my 2021 NHL mock draft of the first round for Bleacher Report. I predict Power will be selected by the Sabres.

The NHL also unveiled its 82-game schedule for 2021-22. The season will begin Tuesday, Oct. 12 with the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning while the expansion Seattle Kraken plays their first-ever NHL game as they visit the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken’s first home game is Oct. 23 as they host the Vancouver Canucks

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he doesn’t expect team captain Shea Weber to play next season, adding the defenseman’s career is probably over because of injuries he tried to play through in recent years.

Bergevin confirmed goaltender Carey Price is in New York having his knee and hip examined with the possibility his knee could require surgery with a possible recovery period of 6-8 weeks. He also said he expects winger Jonathan Drouin will return to the team for training camp in September. Drouin took a season-ending leave of absence in March to deal with a personal matter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin anticipates the league will allow him to place Weber ($7.8 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve for 2021-22. That would provide the Canadiens GM the flexibility to exceed the $81.5 million salary cap by the equivalent of Weber’s cap hit if necessary.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes acquired defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere plus a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers without sending anything back in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was purely a cost-cutting move by the Flyers to shed Gostisbehere’s $4.5 million annual cap hit. “Ghost Bear” struggled over the past two years and could benefit from a change of scenery.

This is the second deal involving the Coyotes where they acquired a player and draft picks without sending anything the other way. They recently swung a deal with the New York Islanders for Andrew Ladd and three picks. As with the Gostisbehere deal, it was done by the Isles to clear some cap room.

The Flyers and Islanders paid a price to get those contracts off their books by giving up those draft picks to the Coyotes. Gostisbehere remains a decent NHL player and is expected to be part of the Coyotes roster next season. Ladd’s spent most of the past two seasons in the minors and could do so again in 2021-22.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings acquired goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for goalie Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick in this year’s draft. Nedeljkovic signed a two-year contract with the Wings worth an annual average value of $3 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move baffled most observers. Nedeljkovic is a promising young netminder and a Calder Trophy finalist this season. However, it appears the Hurricanes front office wasn’t that enamored with his overall performance. Rather than face a possible salary arbitration battle, they opted to trade him to the Wings.

It’s believed the Hurricanes will seek a suitable replacement via trade or free agency. Nevertheless, this could backfire on them if Nedeljkovic goes on to a solid NHL career with the Wings.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed forward Barclay Goodrow to a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.642 million. The deal also includes signing bonuses and a 15-team no-trade list. Goodrow was recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The cap hit is reasonable but the term seems long for a player of Goodrow’s caliber. The 28-year-old is a solid third-line forward but comparable players usually get three or four-year deals at most. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll receive $5 million in actual salary in 2023-24 and $5.1 million in 2024-25.

TSN: A former Chicago Blackhawks player described his alleged sexual assault by the club’s former video coach Bradley Aldrich in a recent court filing.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The attorney handling two negligence lawsuits against the Blackhawks said one of her clients was bullied by several Blackhawks teammates after he accused Aldrich of sexually assaulting him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman yesterday said he would cooperate with the internal investigation conducted by the legal team hired by the club. The Tribune reports he declined to comment on the specifics of the review or the events in 2010 citing the pending lawsuits.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames acquired forward Tyler Pitlick from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2022.

THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks re-signed Rudolfs Balcers to a two-year, $3.1 million contract.

CAP FRIENDLY: The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed center Gemel Smith to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. The first year is a two-way deal with Smith earning $750K at the NHL level.

NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Kiefer Sherwood to a one-year deal.

NHLPA: Matt Calvert announced his retirement from the NHL after 10 seasons due to a career-ending injury. He played 566 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche, tallying 203 career points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Calvert in his future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 21, 2021

The Seattle Kraken expansion draft is tonight at 8 pm ET plus the latest on Vladimir Tarasenko, Phillip Danault, Ryan Ellis, Patrik Laine and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken will finally have a full roster of players as they reveal their selections this evening in the 2021 NHL expansion draft. The names will be announced at Seattle’s Gas Works Park starting at 8 pm ET. Among the notable names available is Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano.

Seattle Kraken expansion draft is July 21. (NHL.com)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Price, Tarasenko and Giordano could be selected by the Kraken. I’ll have more on that in today’s Rumor Mill update. Ovechkin, however, is expected to re-sign with the Capitals following the expansion draft.

THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of Tarasenko, Jeremy Rutherford reports the surgeon who conducted the winger’s third shoulder surgery claims his patient’s left shoulder is “rock solid.”

Dr. Peter Millett said Tarasenko’s shoulder is “very stable and strong”, adding the winger told him it feels better now than it has for months. Millett is confident that Tarasenko is “100 percent ready for the upcoming season.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues spent several weeks attempting to trade Tarasenko before exposing him in the expansion draft. This news could make him more enticing to the Kraken or to clubs that expressed interest in the 29-year-old winger.

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels cited sources claiming it’s highly unlikely Phillip Danault returns with the Montreal Canadiens. The 28-year-old center is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. Engels also indicated there’s no truth to a reported deal between Danault and the Kraken.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault has put his Montreal-area home up for sale. His solid defensive play during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs should help him land a lucrative long-term deal elsewhere on July 28.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Speaking of the Canadiens, they named Jean-Francois Houle as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Laval. The son of former Canadien Rejean Houle, he has several years of coaching experience at the university, Junior-A and minor-league levels. In 2011-12, he won the Ron Lapointe Trophy as the QMJHL’s top coach.

TSN: Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis denied suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery this season. He said it was an injured knuckle that sidelined him for 20 games with the Nashville Predators. Ellis was traded to the Flyers on Saturday before the expansion draft roster freeze. He said he’s good to go for next season.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Patrik Laine is mulling the $7.5 million qualifying offer he received from the Blue Jackets. If he signs the one-year deal he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. The move could allow time for the Jackets to negotiate a long-term extension with the 23-year-old winger.

TSN: Prospect Logan Mailloux has renounced himself from this weekend’s NHL Draft. He’s asking teams not to select him following a criminal charge while playing in Sweden last year. He was investigated after distributing a photo of himself and a woman engaged in a sexual act. The photo was taken without her consent.

Mailloux received a summary punishment by fine. The NHL responded that he remains draft-eligible.

NHL.COM: Defenseman Yannick Weber has retired from the NHL after 13 seasons. He intends to continue his playing career in Switzerland. Weber amassed 94 points in 499 games with the Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Weber in his future endeavors.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 17, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – July 17, 2021

An update on Seth Jones, the latest on the Canadiens, possible destinations for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and recent Canucks speculation in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

NOTE: A freeze on trades, waivers and contract signings goes into effect at 3 pm ET today and runs through 1 pm ET on Thursday, July 22. Teams are required to submit their expansion draft protections lists by 5 pm ET today.

COULD THE BLUE JACKETS RETAIN JONES?

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports the Columbus Blue Jackets are letting it be known they don’t have to trade Seth Jones this summer. They’ve set a high asking price, seeking a combination of young NHL players, prospects and draft picks. However, it doesn’t appear they’re getting any offers to their liking for the 26-year-old defenseman.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (NHL Images).

Portzline, however, still believes Jones will be moved this summer, in part to avoid the risk of a season-ending injury before next season’s trade deadline. The Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers are said to be interested in the blueliner, who’s a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. The Jackets have not yet granted any team permission to speak with Jones about a contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring something significant today, the earliest Jones could get traded is heading into next weekend’s NHL draft following the expansion draft on Wednesday.

LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION

TVA SPORTS: listed six candidates for the Montreal Canadiens to pursue as a potential replacement for Shea Weber. The 35-year-old defenseman could miss all of next season recovering from various injuries.

Seth Jones topped the list, following by Edmonton’s Tyson Barrie and Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton. Edmonton’s Adam Larsson, Calgary’s Mark Giordano and Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen rounded out the list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones, Giordano and Ristolainen would be available in the trade market. Barrie, Hamilton and Larsson are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 28.

Jones would be the best option but Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin could balk at their asking price. Jones’ apparent unwillingness to ink a contract extension takes him out of the equation.

Giordano would be a worthwhile short-term addition but his status remains uncertain. The Flames could leave him exposed in the expansion draft, where the Seattle Kraken could claim him. That’s assuming he isn’t moved before today’s trade freeze.

Barrie and Hamilton would provide plenty of offense from the blueline but their respective defensive games are average at best. Each will cost a lot to sign. Larsson would be a good fit defensively but the Oilers are said to be working on a new contract for him. Ristolainen could be available but it’s uncertain if he could handle the pressure of playing in Montreal. Like Jones, he’s slated to become a UFA next summer.

TSN 690 reported it could prove expensive for the Canadiens to swing a side deal to ensure the Seattle Kraken don’t select Jake Allen. The asking price is said to be a quality prospect and a second or a third-round pick. The Kraken would also accept a first-round pick and a selection later in the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be shocked if Bergevin paid either price to keep Allen in the fold. He could also attempt to trade the backup to another club before today’s trade freeze if he’s that concerned about losing him to the Kraken.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday he thinks the Canadiens will let Phillip Danault test the free-agent market. They’re willing to keep the door open to him to come back after he’s heard from other clubs. They made an offer last offseason but it was rejected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That offer was reportedly a six-year, $30 million contract extension. He might get more than that on the open market after his strong defensive play in the postseason.

POSSIBLE DESTINATIONS FOR SUTER AND PARISE

THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo suggested the New York Islanders could be a destination for former Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise. He has a soft spot for the Islanders as his late father, J.P. Parise, played for them in the 1970s. The Vegas Golden Knights may have also reached out to him.

Russo believes former Wild defenseman Ryan Suter will have more options via free agency than Parise. He’s still a capable top-four defenseman who can log big minutes. Suter’s a proud American so it would be surprising if he signed with a Canadian team.

Possible destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche. Others could include the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.

Arthur Staple thinks Suter would be a good fit with the Islanders following their Friday trade of Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings. He played for Isles coach Barry Trotz during their days with the Nashville Predators. However, he could prove more expensive to sign him compared to Parise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russo also speculated over the possibility of the Pittsburgh Penguins reuniting Parise and Suter with Brian Burke in their front office. However, I don’t think that’s something GM Ron Hextall will pursue.

The Islanders attempted to acquire Parise at the 2020 trade deadline but the deal fell through because they couldn’t get the dollars to work with the Wild. I can see him inking an affordable one-year deal with the Isles provided there’s enough cap space after re-signing Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, Ilya Sorokin and perhaps Casey Cizikas.

Suter won’t lack suitors. He’ll want to sign with a Stanley Cup contender and could be a fit for those with limited cap space. I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t signed with someone by the end of the opening day of free agency on July 28.

UPDATE ON THE CANUCKS

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal report Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby is drawing interest from the Seattle Kraken and other teams around the league. At least one team from the Eastern Conference and one from the Western Conference are believed among the suitors.

Holtby’s salary for next season could be a stumbling block. He carries an annual average value of $4.3 million but he’ll earn $5.7 million in actual salary in 2021-22. The Kraken are said to have inquired if the Canucks will retain some salary in a side deal.

The Canucks are said to have a real interest in Zach Hyman. The Toronto Maple Leafs left winger is slated to become a UFA on July 28 and has been granted permission to speak with other clubs. Contract term, however, is said to be an issue.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports Canucks GM Jim Benning said he’s looking to make a trade to “move some money.” It’s understood the Canucks are trying to find a new home for defenseman Nate Schmidt, who was acquired last fall from the Vegas Golden Knights. Holtby and perhaps Loui Eriksson could be trade options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s performance has declined in recent years but some clubs could see him as an experienced backup option. The Canucks might have to absorb some salary or take back a bad contract to move him. Maybe they can swing a three-team deal where they bundle a draft pick with Holtby to another team to pick up part of his cap hit.

Hyman, 29, could seek a maximum seven-year contract. That’s a risky signing for any team given his age. Schmidt should have some value among clubs seeking blueline depth but his contract ($5.95 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 and 10-team no-trade list) could be a tough sell.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2021

The Avalanche trade Ryan Graves to the Devils, the Panthers buy out Keith Yandle, Ben Bishop agrees to waive NMC for the expansion draft, Leafs give Zach Hyman permission to speak to other clubs, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST/NORTHJERSEY.COM: The Colorado Avalanche last night traded defenseman Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft.

The Colorado Avalanche trade Ryan Graves to the New Jersey Devils (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche risked losing Graves to the Seattle Kraken for nothing in next week’s expansion draft. They get a promising young forward in Maltsev and replace the second-round pick they shipped to the New York Islanders last fall for Devon Toews. The move also gives the Avs some much-needed salary-cap relief, replacing Graves’ $3.21 million annual average value with Maltsev’s $925K for 2021-22.

Graves, 26, established himself as a quality top-four defenseman during his tenure with the Avalanche. The 6’5”, 220-pounder brings a good mix of size, physical play and a solid defensive game to the Devils’ blueline.

NBC SPORTS: The Florida Panthers have bought out the remaining two years of Keith Yandle’s contract. The 34-year-old defenseman had an annual average value of $6.35 million. The first year of the buyout will count as $2.34 million against the Panthers’ cap for 2021-22, jumping to $5.3 million for 2022-23, and dropping to $1.24 million annually for the final two seasons.

They also re-signed winger Anthony Duclair to a three-year, $9 million contract and defenseman Gustav Forsling to a three-year, $7.98 million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things were coming to a head between Yandle and the Panthers this season. He was nearly a healthy scratch to start the season, which would’ve threatened his Ironman consecutive games streak. He was scratched from three postseason games. This move freed up immediate cap room to address other needs.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Ben Bishop agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft. That will allow the Stars to protect goalie Anton Khudobin as promising Jake Oettinger is exempt from the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop missed all of this season recovering from a knee injury. His lengthy injury history likely means the Kraken will pass on selecting him in next week’s draft.

THE SCORE: cited TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting the Toronto Maple Leafs are allowing Zach Hyman to speak with other teams. The 29-year-old left-winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a chance the Leafs could match the best offer but that appears slim. I’ll have more on Hyman in today’s Rumor Mill.

TSN: Darren Dreger speculates Shea Weber’s situation could end in a dispute between the NHL and NHLPA if the league doesn’t allow the Canadiens to put the 35-year-old defenseman on long-term injury reserve. Weber’s career is in jeopardy from the effects of multiple injuries suffered over the past four seasons. He’s reportedly expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone is waiting for clarity on this before deciding what to do next. Weber is reportedly getting a second medical opinion. Dreger indicated the timing of this situation is what’s clouding the issue with the expansion draft coming up.

THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins said Matiss Kivlenieks died a hero during the memorial service for his late teammate. Kivlenieks died at age 24 from chest trauma from a fireworks mortar blast. The tube tilted and started firing toward a hot tub. Merzlikins and his pregnant wife were nearby. He said the young goaltender sacrificed his life to protect others

SPECTOR’S NOTE: RIP Matiss, your last save was your biggest.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed winger Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $900K contract.

THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks re-signed center Dylan Gambrell to a one-year, $1.1 million contract.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2021

Shea Weber faces career-threatening injuries, Jeff Skinner waives NMC for the expansion draft, Patrik Laine ties his struggles this season to John Tortorella, and the latest on Gabriel Landeskog, Steven Stamkos, Brandon Carlo and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Various injuries threaten to end Shea Weber’s playing career. The Canadiens captain could miss all of next season, if not more. He’s been hampered by foot, ankle, knee and thumb injuries in recent years. As a result, the Habs might not protect the 35-year-old defenseman in the upcoming expansion draft.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the left ankle and foot injuries are what could derail Weber’s career. He’s been dealing with those issues since 2018. His medical history creates a legitimate case for him to go on long-term injury reserve if he cannot play again. The league will make that determination and the process, which also involves Weber, his agent, the Canadiens and the NHLPA, is underway.

Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a devastating blow for Weber and the Canadiens. Despite his age, he’s been their unquestioned leader and the linchpin of their blueline. He’s played through injuries that would sideline most players but that wear and tear could be catching up with him.

Weber has five years remaining on his contract. He could retire if his ankle/foot injuries prevent him from playing again, but that would result in a huge salary-cap recapture penalty for his former club, the Nashville Predators. They matched the offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. Placing him on permanent LTIR would enable the Predators to avoid that penalty while also providing the Canadiens with over $7.8 million in annual cap relief if needed.

For now, it appears Weber could miss all of next season, including the playoffs. That will push the Canadiens into the trade or free-agent market for a replacement, though finding someone of Weber’s caliber will be a daunting challenge.

Weber’s status makes it unlikely the Seattle Kraken will select him if he’s left unprotected in the upcoming expansion draft.

Speaking of the Canadiens, they signed assistant coach Luke Richardson to a three-year contract extension.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner has agreed to waive his no-movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft. It’s extremely unlikely the Kraken will select Skinner, who’s carrying a $9 million annual salary-cap hit over the next six seasons. The move will instead enable the Sabres to protect another player in the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per expansion draft rules, players with NMCs must be protected unless they agree to waive the clause. The deadline to ask players to waive those clauses was two days ago. Players asked to do so must reach a decision by Friday.

Speaking of players and no-movement clauses, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle was not asked to waive theirs for the expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pointless to do so when you know the answer is, “Oh hell, no!” Or words to that effect.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine told a Finnish media outlet he laid part of the blame for his disappointing performance this season at the feet of former Jackets coach John Tortorella. Laine said Tortorella didn’t allow him the freedom to be creative offensively because of the coach’s desire for everyone to play a two-way game.

Laine said he understood the need for a tight system and he does what coaches tell him to do. However, he also believes they should give players the opportunity to use their strengths. “I do not even want to be like everyone else. I am who I am and do things my way. Everyone should be given the opportunity to be themselves.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what weight Laine’s comments have in his contract negotiations with Jackets’ management. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

The report also noted Laine made a disrespectful comment toward Brad Larsen (then an assistant coach) during a game this season, leading to Tortorella benching the winger. Larsen is now the Jackets’ head coach but the article cited sources saying the incident was quickly resolved with no lingering issues between the two.

THE ATHLETIC: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is unhappy he doesn’t have a new contract yet with the club. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 28. “I can’t help but be honest with you that I’m a little bit disappointed that it’s gotten this far and it’s had to come to this point,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talks are reportedly ongoing between the two sides but they’re not yet close to a deal. Salary cap constraints are an issue here. The Avalanche must also re-sign Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar and Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed defenseman Brandon Carlo to a six-year, $24.6 million contract. The annual average value is $4.1 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable contract for the 24-year-old Carlo, who’s coming off a two-year deal worth $2.85 million annually. The only concern here is his injury history. He played in just 27 games this season. When healthy, however, he’s an effective shutdown defenseman.

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller announced his retirement after seven NHL seasons, citing health issues after battling injuries the past two seasons. He played 352 games for the Bruins, tallying 72 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Miller in his future endeavors.

TSN: It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs could lose two Zachs to free agency on July 28. The Leafs remain far apart in contract talks with winger Zach Hyman while all indications suggest defenseman Zach Bogosian will head to the open market.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $2.2 million.

THE SCORE: Lightning winger Pat Maroon admitted he was the one who accidentally damaged the bowl of the Stanley Cup during the club’s victory celebration in Tampa on Monday. He was attempting to lift the Cup and slipped on the wet stage and fell backward. It was raining at the time of the incident.










Were The Canadiens Good Or Just Lucky?

Were The Canadiens Good Or Just Lucky?

Are the Montreal Canadiens a stronger team than we thought, or did they just get lucky and go on a five-week hot streak?

The Canadiens enjoyed an impressive run in the 2021 playoffs. The lowest overall postseason seed, they upset the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

They came a cropper against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, falling in five games. However, the clubs the Habs eliminated wouldn’t have fared any better against the powerful Bolts.

The Canadiens’ playoff success papered over the fact they barely qualified in the first place.

They cooled off after a hot start, replaced most of their coaching staff by midseason, saw starting goalie Carey Price endure one of the worst regular seasons of his career, endure a 25 game in 44-night second-half stretch following a COVID-19 outbreak, lost playmaking winger Jonathan Drouin for the remainder of the season for personal reasons, and endured a shaky stretch drive with Price, captain Shea Weber and alternate captain Brendan Gallagher sidelined by injury.

Little wonder no one gave them a chance of defeating the Leafs, Jets and Golden Knights in each successive round. And yet, they defied the critics and overcame the odds.

Montreal Canadiens pose with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (NHL.com).

But which team are the real Canadiens? The one that took their fans on a dazzling run that came within three games of the Stanley Cup? Or the one that stumbled through a shortened season and backed into the playoffs?

On the one hand, the Habs seemed to finally adjust to interim coach Dominique Ducharme’s system in the postseason. They played a strong team game with an emphasis on solid defensive play, quick zone transitions, and in-close scoring chances. Their penalty-killing was the best throughout this postseason.

Price bounced back, reminding everyone why he’s still among the best goalies in the game. Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson formed a solid top-four defense that cleared traffic from around Price’s net and took away the opposition’s scoring lanes.

Young forwards Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi continue to blossom into future stars. Josh Anderson provided size, speed and clutch scoring. Tyler Toffoli was strong at both ends of the rink. Phillip Danault was superb in a shutdown center role. Greybeards Corey Perry and Eric Staal provided invaluable depth experience and leadership.

On the other hand, Price admitted he didn’t play well during the first three games against the Lightning. Anderson’s scoring was inconsistent for most of the playoffs. A thumb injury robbed Weber of his fearsome point shot. Alexander Romanov’s limited postseason appearances raised questions over Ducharme’s faith in the promising defenseman. The power play often looked like they were playing with a live grenade.

So, are they an emerging Stanley Cup contender or an overachiever that crashed to earth in the Final?

Marc Bergevin was a finalist for GM of the Year, which for some weird reason is voted on following the second round of the playoffs. He wouldn’t have even been among the candidates had that vote occurred following the regular season.

The Canadiens’ playoff run probably saved Bergevin’s job (should he still want it) and should remove the interim label off Ducharme’s title. Having gotten their team to the Final, can they avoid the pitfalls that doomed many Cup Final underdogs of the past?

Everything depends on several factors.

Bergevin was able to use plentiful cap space to add Toffoli, Anderson, Perry, Staal, Edmundson and backup goalie Jake Allen. Making similar acquisitions won’t easy with a salary cap expected to remain flat for the next several seasons.

More promising youngsters must begin to crack the lineup. Ryan Poehling, Mattias Norlinder, Cayden Primeau, Jan Mysak, Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris have to make a positive impression within the next several years.

Price must maintain his strong playoff form throughout the regular season, something he’s had difficulty doing in recent years. The 36-year-old Weber must begin accepting a reduced role as a second-pairing defenseman, allowing Petry to take the first-pairing role on their right side.

Toffoli and Gallagher must remain healthy. Danault should be brought back but that could prove difficult given his earlier rejection of a six-year, $30 million deal. If not, a suitable replacement must be found. Perry should be an affordable one-year signing.

Suzuki, Caufield, Kotkaniemi and center Jake Evans must keep improving and take on greater roles and responsibilities. Romanov must be given more playing time and room to allow for his development. Anderson needs to find the back of the net more often. They need more from Drouin than what he’s given them in the past, assuming he can continue his playing career.

Ducharme must prove he can still make the right moves as he did through most of this postseason. He has to ensure the players still buy into his system. He must also silence critics who feel he’s slow to trust his youngsters given his seeming reluctance to insert Kotkaniemi, Caufield and Romanov into the lineup earlier in this postseason.

Even if all those factors pan out, will the Canadiens be deep enough and strong enough to match up well in an Atlantic Division? Can they compete on an even footing with the powerhouse Lightning, the improving Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, the still-talented Maple Leafs and still-dangerous Boston Bruins?

Can they do more than just hold their own against Eastern Conference teams like the veteran-laden Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals? Will they be able to handle the rising Carolina Hurricanes, the promising New York Rangers, and the hard-working New York Islanders?

Can they keep pace with the best of the west in the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche? Or the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers? The suddenly improved Minnesota Wild?

This year was a heckuva run for the Canadiens but they have a long way to go to prove they’re more than a one-year wonder.