NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 20, 2020

Patrick Kane reaches 1,000 points, Justin Williams tallies the game-winner in his return to the Hurricanes, the latest on Gerard Gallant, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected an assist for his 1,000th career point in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex Nylander, Erik Gustafsson, and Connor Murphy led the way with two points apiece while Robin Lehner made 36 saves. Jets forward Adam Lowry left the game in the first period with an injured arm. The surging Blackhawks are tied with the Jets (54), sitting just three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.

Patrick Kane is the fourth player in Chicago Blackhawks history to reach 1,000 career points (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks and Jets are moving in opposite directions approaching the All-Star break. The Hawks have won five in a row and seven of their last 10, while the slumping Jets dropped two in a row and six of their last 10.

Justin Williams scored the deciding goal during a shootout in his first game of the season as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Islanders 2-1. Andrei Svechnikov also scored for the Canes while Anders Lee countered for the Isles. The Hurricanes snap a three-game losing skid and hold a one-point lead (59) over the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

The Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a 3-0 deficit to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. Sidney Crosby picked up two assists while Bryan Rust tallied the winning goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks picked up a win in his NHL debut backstopping his club to a 2-1 over the New York Rangers. Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied both Jackets goals.

JOURNAL-PIONEER: Former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said he was surprised and disappointed by his firing last week. Gallant has returned to his hometown of Summerside, PEI, and is hoping to quickly return to coaching. He said if the right opportunity came up for himself and long-time assistant coach Mike Kelly, he’d definitely consider it. Kelly was also relieved of his duties by the Golden Knights.

Gallant was slated to coach the Pacific Division in the upcoming NHL All-Star Game. “I talked to the NHL about it and they sort of left it up to me, but I didn’t really feel comfortable (going),” said Gallant. “I just said I’d sooner pass.” Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet will replace Gallant.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given his credentials, the 2018 Jack Adams Award winner won’t be unemployed for long. I expect he’ll be back behind an NHL bench before the end of 2020.

NJ.COM: Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood suffered a concussion and lost four teeth when struck in the mask by a shot during Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers. He was symptom-free by Friday and briefly played in Saturday’s loss to Columbus.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers assigned defenseman Matt Benning to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield on a conditioning stint.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 19, 2020

More scoring milestones for Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews leads the Blackhawks over the Leafs, another solid performance by Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin tallied his second straight hat trick as the Washington Capitals overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat the New York Islanders 6-4. With 692 career goals, Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux (690) for 10th on the all-time goal-scoring list and is tied for ninth place with Steve Yzerman. He’s also just the third player to score consecutive hat tricks three times, tying Wayne Gretzky for second place behind leader Joe Malone with four. Ovechkin is just two goals behind Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (36) for the league lead. Devon Toews had a goal and two assists for the Islanders.

Another milestone performance for Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in a 6-4 win over the New York Islanders (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin just keeps passing milestones on his way to 700 career goals. He needs just three goals to pass Mark Messier (694) for eighth place and should reach seventh-place Mike Gartner’s 708 before season’s end. Toews, meanwhile, poked the bear by mimicking Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov bird-dance goal celebration.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored twice and set up two others to lead his club over the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2. Hawks rookie winger Dominik Kubalik scored twice to reach 20 goals on the season, while Patrick Kane picked up his 999th career point. The loss drops the Leafs (57 points) to 10th overall in the Eastern Conference, one point out of the final wild-card spot. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, move to within five points of the final Western Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Give the Blackhawks credit, they’re not giving up on this season. The Leafs, meanwhile, are starting to look like they did before they changed coaches two months ago. Perhaps a trade is necessary to bolster the lineup or shake them up.

Elvis Merzlikins made 41 saves for his third shutout in four games backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Cam Atkinson scored twice and collected an assist. The Jackets (58 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Colorado Avalanche held off the St. Louis Blues 5-3, snapping the latter’s six-game win streak. Nathan MacKinnon and Andre Burakovsky each picked up a goal and an assist while Cale Makar set the Avalanche record for rookie defensemen with his 11th goal of the season.

Connor McDavid scored two goals, Riley Sheahan picked up four points and Josh Archibald three in the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-3 trouncing of the Arizona Coyotes. The Oilers have won five of their last six games. McDavid (76 points) holds a one-point lead over linemate Leon Draisaitl as the league’s leading scorer. Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta was pulled after giving up six goals in 18 shots. Meanwhile, there’s speculation the Oilers are closing in a four-year contract extension with winger Zack Kassian worth between $3.2-$3.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics will complain that’s too much money for too long for a player whose production is dependent upon his more talented linemates. Nevertheless, the Oilers consider him a faster, more affordable replacement for Milan Lucic, who was shipped to Calgary last summer. Given the steady increase in the salary cap, that projected contract isn’t that bad. However, it would push their 2020-21 salary-cap payroll to nearly $63 million invested in 13 players, with defensemen Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear in line for raises and veteran goalie Mike Smith to be re-signed or replaced.

The Vancouver Canucks sit atop the Pacific Division with 58 points following a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Tanner Pearson, Adam Gaudette, and Jake Virtanen each had two points for the Canucks, who’ve won 11 of their last 14 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks still have their work cut out for them holding a playoff berth in the tightly-contested Pacific. With each game, however, they’re looking more and more like a postseason contender.

The Montreal Canadiens kept their playoff hopes alive in a 5-4 squeaker over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Habs blew 3-0 and 4-2 leads before Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar scored in the shootout. Nick Cousins scored twice for the Canadiens (51 points), who sit six behind the third-place Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division. Golden Knights center Paul Stastny had a goal and an assist before losing some teeth after catching an errant stick in the mouth.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves backstopping the Florida Panthers to a 4-1 win over the lowly Detroit Red Wings. The Panthers have won four in a row but played without netminder Chris Driedger, who’s expected to miss several weeks with a groin injury. Wings center Dylan Larkin tallied his 100th career goal.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Travis Konecny scored two goals and James van Riemsdyk had three points to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Claude Giroux chipped in the two helpers for the Flyers (58 points), who hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

The Nashville Predators edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Craig Smith’s third-period goal. The Sabres win streak ended at three games while captain Jack Eichel’s points streak ended at nine games.

Jason Zucker had a goal and two assists and Alex Stalock had a 27-save shutout as the Minnesota Wild thumped the Dallas Stars 7-0. With 50 points, the Wild are seven points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth. Stars defenseman Stephen Johns returned to action following a 22-month absence dealing with post-concussion symptoms.

The Ottawa Senators picked up their first victory in 10 games by dousing the Calgary Flames 5-2. Senators goaltender Marcus Hogberg kicked out 40 shots while Brady Tkachuk had a goal and an assist. Brother Matthew was held scoreless by the Sens.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins center David Krejci (upper body) is expected to miss today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Justin Williams is expected to return to the Carolina Hurricanes lineup today against the New York Islanders.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 8, 2020

Another milestone for Alex Ovechkin, Justin Williams returns to the Hurricanes, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin reached another scoring milestone in a 6-1 thumping of the Ottawa Senators. Ovechkin scored twice to tie Teemu Selanne (684 goals) for 11th on the all-time goal list. T.J. Oshie also scored two goals while defenseman John Carlson chipped in two assists.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is tied with Teemu Selanne with 684 career goals (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin needs only 11 more goals to surpass Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and Mark Messier and move into eighth overall. Barring injury, he should pass those three before season’s end. He needs 25 more goals to pass Mike Gartner for seventh.

The Carolina Hurricanes edged the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 on an overtime goal by Dougie Hamilton. Sebastian Aho and Warren Foegele each had two points. The Flyers have lost four straight games. The Hurricanes also announced winger Justin Williams was returning to play on a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a base salary of $700K. Williams, 38, had stepped away from the game for several months. It remains to be seen where he’ll fit into the lineup or when he’ll play his first game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was speculation the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals might try to sign Williams before he inked his new deal with the Hurricanes. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes the veteran winger to round back into game shape and how effective he’ll be over the remainder of this season.

The St. Louis Blues snapped a three-game winless skid by holding off the San Jose Sharks 3-2. Sharks captain Logan Couture left the game in the second period with an apparent knee injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Couture’s status could come later today. If he’s sidelined for a long period, it’ll be a significant setback to the Sharks’ playoff hopes.

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Carter Verhaeghe tallied his first career NHL hat trick in a 9-2 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks. Brayden Point had a four-point performance and Steven Stamkos collected three points. Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh missed the game with an upper-body injury and could remain sidelined until Saturday. The Bolts have won eight straight.

The Boston Bruins spoiled John Hynes’ debut as the Nashville Predators new head coach by rolling to a 6-2 victory. Bruins forwards Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen each had a goal and an assist while David Pastrnak netted his league-leading 32nd goal.

Elias Lindholm celebrated his 500th career NHL game with two goals as the Calgary Flames squeaked past the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1. Blackhawks center Dylan Strome left the game with an injured right ankle in the second period.

Kris Letang and Dominik Kahun each picked up two points and Tristan Jarry made 31 stops in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Penguins have won 12 of their last 16 while the Golden Knights’ four-game win streak came to an end. Jarry and Letang were named to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game as injury replacements.

The Columbus Blue Jackets extended their road points streak to nine games by edging the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Zach Werenski scored two goals and Pierre-Luc Dubois collected three assists. With 50 points, the Jackets sit behind the Flyers (50 points) for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers hold a game in hand.

New York Rangers rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves (13 in the first period) for his first career NHL victory in a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Rangers winger Artemi Panarin scored and set up two others. The Avs have dropped seven of their last 10 games.

The Arizona Coyotes picked up their fourth straight win by downing the Florida Panthers 5-2. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner, Phil Kessel collected three assists, and goalie Adin Hill made 37 saves.

Anders Lee’s overtime goal lifted the New York Islanders over the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri each had a goal and an assist in a losing cause for the Devils.

The Detroit Red Wings rallied to nip the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Frans Nielsen scored twice and Filip Zadina tallied the winning goal. Ilya Kovalchuk picked up two assists for the Habs, who are winless in seven (0-6-1).

IN OTHER NEWS…

ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is concerned over the recent trend of notable players skipping the annual All-Star Game. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury have opted out of this year’s game. Under league rules, a player named to the ASG who doesn’t attend faces a one-game suspension.

Daly believes the current punishment isn’t sufficient to discourage players from skipping the game, but the league might not attempt to stiffen the penalty through collective bargaining. “What we want to do is make sure everybody understands that it is an important event, not something that should be bypassed lightly. We’ll seek the help with the [NHLPA] in instilling that sentiment with the players,” said Daly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the stick isn’t working, the league should try the carrot approach. Rather than punishment, perhaps they can entice the players by sweetening the $1 million prize for the winning team in the All-Star Game.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild recalled goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as Devan Dubnyk will skip the club’s upcoming trip to Calgary. Dubnyk will be with his wife as she undergoes a medical procedure.

SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens traded former first-round pick Michael McCarron to the Nashville Predators for center Laurent Dauphin. McCarron was selected 25th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Canadiens don’t have the best record in managing their first-round assets in recent years:

 










NHL Rumor Mill – January 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – January 1, 2020

Check out the latest on Chris Kreider, Brandon Saad, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Galchenyuk and more in the New Year’s Day edition of the NHL rumor mill.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there’s lots of interest in Chris Kreider, but no word yet if the New York Rangers intend to trade the pending free agent winger. He points out they re-signed Dan Girardi in late-February 2014 and Marc Staal in January 2015, plus they took Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes to the wire last season before trading them. Contenders like the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues are said to be interested. There’s speculation about the Montreal Canadiens, but Kreider’s partial no-trade clause affects that.

Will the New York Rangers trade or re-sign Chris Kreider? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kreider might not be keen to accept a trade to the Canadiens if the Rangers shop him before the deadline. He might be more receptive to one of those contenders mentioned by Friedman.

Friedman also believes there will be interest in Brandon Saad once the Chicago Blackhawks winger returns from injury. He carries an annual average value of $6 million through next season. He believes the Edmonton Oilers looked into Saad, but the dollars won’t fit.

Speaking of the Oilers, Friedman believes they’re wary of trading draft picks. “They didn’t have a second- or third-rounder in 2015; their 2016 first-rounder is estranged from the organization; didn’t have a second-rounder in 2017; nothing in round three-to-five in 2018; and six picks last year.” He feels that’s one of the reasons why they passed on bringing back Taylor Hall.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could hamper efforts to bolster their struggling roster leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

As of today, players on one-year contracts are allowed to sign contract extensions. Ottawa Senators winger Anthony Duclair and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner are two worth watching.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both will draw considerable interest if they hit the open market this summer. Duclair has resurrected his career with the Senators, and they could be intent on re-signing him. Lehner is outplaying long-time Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford. Both are due to become unrestricted free agents this summer, and Lehner seems the most likely to be re-signed.

Other goaltenders eligible for UFA status this summer include Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Colorado’s Pavel Francouz, and Winnipeg’s Laurent Brossoit.

A few teams are wondering what direction the Pittsburgh Penguins could go with their goaltending. Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents this summer. Speaking of the Penguins, Friedman wonders if Jake Guentzel’s shoulder injury might give a new lease on life for Alex Galchenyuk, who was reportedly being shopped by the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Galchenyuk was expected to be the odd-man-out once the Penguins’ forward lines got healthier. That could change with Guentzel sidelined four-to-six months.

The Calgary Flames have some spare bodies who aren’t happy being shuffled in and out of the lineup. Friedman said there’s interest in Mark Jankowski, who needs a fresh start. There’s also interest in versatile forward Sam Bennett, but Friedman isn’t convinced the Flames will move him unless they get an impactful return.

Friedman believes the New Jersey Devils are interested in some of the Buffalo Sabres’ available defensemen.

Free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk is hoping for some contenders to show more interest.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Boston Bruins were said to have had some interest in Kovalchuk. I expect they’ll look at better options in the trade market.

There could be news on Justin Williams’ plans by this weekend.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The former Carolina Hurricanes’ captain has taken time away from the game to decide if he’s ready to hang up his skates. If he decides to return to action, it’ll only be with the Hurricanes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 26, 2019

Game recaps, the Penguins trade Erik Gudbranson to the Ducks, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

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.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice to rally the Washington Capitals to a 6-5 win over the Vancouver Canucks (Photo via NHL Images).

​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.

HEADLINES

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.

CBS SPORTS: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body) will miss the club’s next two games. Winger Sammy Blais is listed as day-to-day with an injured thumb.

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.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 3, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – September 3, 2019

The latest on Justin Williams, updates on Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

COULD WILLIAMS RETURN LATER THIS SEASON?

THE ATHLETIC: Sara Civian reports Justin Williams decision to step away from the game isn’t a retirement announcement. He didn’t want his indecision to become a distraction for the Carolina Hurricanes heading into training camp.

She cites several sources suggesting the now-former Hurricanes captain could return later in the season, pointing out Mike Fisher did the same midway through 2017-18. 

It’s possible Justin Williams could return to the Carolina Hurricanes later this season (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Civian also points out Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell prepared for this possibility with the acquisitions of Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel. Williams’ absence also creates opportunities for Martin Necas and Brock McGinn. 

LATEST ON MARNER AND GARDINER

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reported hearing the Maple Leafs could have signed Mitch Marner a year ago to an eight-year contract worth $8 million per year. At the time, however, they thought it was too much. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hindsight is 20/20. Had the Leafs signed Marner to that contract a year ago they would’ve been pilloried in some quarters for paying too much. His 94-point performance last season, however, would’ve changed that tune. Instead, they now locked in an apparent standoff with the Marner camp and it will cost much more to get him signed.

TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski believes the Leafs would “almost certainly” have to dump a defenseman if they somehow bring back Jake Gardiner on a one-year contract. He notes the Leafs acquired Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, and Jordan Schmaltz this summer. “One of those newcomers might have to go if the Leafs need to get creative with their cap space,” said Zwolinski.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie’s now their new top-pairing right-side rearguard and Ceciis slated to fill the same role on the second pairing. They’re not going anywhere. Cap Friendly indicates Harpur ($725K) and Schmaltz ($700K) earn considerably less than what it could cost to sign Gardiner.

Depending on Marner’s new contract, it seems unlikely the Leafs can bring back Gardiner. But as I’ve said before, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has found ways to get creative with his limited cap space this summer. He could have another trick up his sleeve for Gardiner. Stay tuned.