NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 30, 2020

The Sabres avoid arbitration with Victor Olofsson, the Stars name Rick Bowness as a full-time coach, former Panthers GM Dale Tallon cleared of wrongdoing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with Victor Olofsson by reaching an agreement on a two-year, $6.1 million contract.

Buffalo Sabres winger Victor Olofsson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Olofsson had an impressive first full NHL season, scoring 20 goals and 42 points in 54 games to become a finalist for the 2019-20 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. This is a reasonable raise for the 25-year-old winger, who becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in 2022.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars removed the interim tag from head coach Rick Bowness’ job title as he signed a two-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise. Bowness took over behind the bench on Dec. 10 and guided the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The NHL has cleared former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon of wrongdoing following an investigation into whether he used racially-charged language during the club’s time in the Toronto playoff bubble.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tallon was reportedly being considered for an advisory role with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This could clear the way for his new job but is being greeted with criticism by some observers.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes are renouncing the rights of 2020 fourth-round pick, Mitchell Miller, after reports emerged of his bullying and racially taunting an African-American classmate with developmental issues four years ago.

THE DENVER POST: Former Colorado Avalanche winger Colin Wilson discussed his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, in The Players’ Tribune on Thursday. The 31-year-old center also indicated hip injuries may have brought his NHL career to a close. He’s now sober, receiving therapy and back in New England preparing for the next step in his life.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson spent 11 seasons in the NHL with the Nashville Predators and the Avalanche, tallying 113 goals and 286 points in 632 games. Best wishes to him in his future endeavors.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has an option to sell the club back to former owner Peter Karmanos. While the coronavirus is affecting the NHL’s economics, Dundon doesn’t believe it will affect his ownership of the club. “I don’t have any intention of not owning the team,” he said.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning officially announced the signings of Patrick Maroon and Luke Schenn. The pair signed new contracts with the Lightning on Oct. 9.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks have loaned center Kirby Dach to Team Canada’s roster for the 2021 World Junior Championships.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A wise decision by the Blackhawks. This will allow Dach to get in some meaningful playing time under a quarantine bubble in Edmonton as he and the Hawks await the start of the 2020-21 season.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed restricted free agent defenseman Sami Niku to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $725K.

NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed defenseman Colton White to a one-year, two-way contract.

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens have been refused access to their practice facility in Brossard by public health officials. The facility is within a COVID-19 red zone.

SPORTSNET: Travis Roy, who was left paralyzed in his first college hockey game with Boston University in 1995, has died at age 45. He went on to become an advocate for spinal cord injury survivors both in and outside the sports world, raising over $9 million through the Travis Roy Foundation. He also worked in tandem with the Boston Bruins, with team president Cam Neely and former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque among those extending condolences.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sympathies to Roy’s family, friends, and former teammates. Neely put it best when he called him “the ultimate symbol of determination and courage.”










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 18, 2020

Vezina Trophy finalists announced, Caleb Jones admits testing positive for COVID-19, plus updates on David Pastrnak, Marc-Andre Fleury, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE

NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck, Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy are the finalist for the 2020 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goaltender as voted by NHL general managers.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is among the finalists for the 2020 Vezina Trophy (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask (2014) and Vasilevskiy (2019) won the Vezina before, while this is Hellebuyck’s second time as a finalist. Rask has the better stats of the three, but Hellebucyk led the league in shutouts (6) while carrying the Jets and their depth-depleted defense into the 2020 playoffs. That could be the determining factor in his favor.

LATEST TRAINING CAMP HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: David Pastrnak’s agent said his client is in quarantine after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. The Bruins winger tested negative for the coronavirus. That explains why he was held out of practice Thursday.

Pastrnak and teammate Ondrej Kase were following travel quarantine protocols after recently returning from the Czech Republic to attend training camp. The reason for Kase’s absence remains unknown.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones admitted he tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks ago when he returned to Edmonton from his off-season home in Dallas. He had no symptoms and self-quarantined for two weeks. He’s fine now and skating in Oilers’ practices.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is the second player known to have had the virus but the first to voluntarily admit it. Last month, the Toronto Sun reported Maple Leafs center Austin Matthews tested positive for COVID-19 over a month ago. He acknowledged it earlier this week.

The NHL is preventing teams from revealing the health status of its players during the return-to-play plan. Absent players are being listed as “unfit to play” or “unfit to participate” with no explanation.

Speaking of the Oilers, they and the mayor of Edmonton issued statements yesterday insisting the storm damage caused to part of Rogers Place arena on Thursday won’t derail plans to host Western Conference teams in the upcoming playoff tournament.

NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury participated in training camp on Friday with his Vegas Golden Knights teammates for the first time this week. The club claims Fleury missed the opening days for “maintenance”, while head coach Peter DeBoer said the goaltender’s absence was not related to COVID-19.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Defensemen Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy joined Corey Crawford on the list of Blackhawks players deemed “unfit to play”. Blueliner Calvin de Haan missed his third straight practice dealing with a family emergency.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning forward Cedric Paquette was listed as “unable to practice” on Friday. He was banged-up during practice on Wednesday.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Noah Juulsen is battling for a spot on the Canadiens roster after being sidelined since Nov. 19, 2018, with migraines related to head trauma. The 23-year-old defenseman got in some games with the Habs’ AHL farm team in Laval before the schedule was interrupted in March and claims he’s felt great since then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For a while, there was concern Juulsen’s promising career could be over before it began. If he’s healthy he could be a valuable addition to the Canadiens blueline.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson declined to confirm a report by TSN’s Darren Dreger claiming interim coach Bob Boughner signed a contract extension to become their permanent head coach. Dreger also cited a report claiming former AHL coach Rocky Thompson would join the Sharks staff as an assistant coach. Wilson said there’s been no decision yet on the coaching staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Wilson doesn’t like it when a reporter spoils his big reveal.

THE DENVER POST: Some promising news to report on former NHLer Kyle Quincey’s young son Axl. The 1-year-old appears on the road to recovery following his second brain surgery on June 9 to remove a tumor.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Axl and his family. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 25, 2020

Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa head the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees, plus the latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa are the former NHL stars topping the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2020 inductees. Former NHL defensemen Doug Wilson and Kevin Lowe, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland, and former Canadian women’s goaltender Kim St. Pierre were the other inductees.

Former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla is among the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the HHoF Class of 2020.

It wasn’t surprising that Iginla and St. Pierre were inducted. With 625 goals, Iginla was one of the top goal scorers in NHL history, winning the Richard Trophy twice and the Art Ross in 2002. St. Pierre was perhaps the greatest goalie in women’s hockey history.

Hossa was also a first-ballot inductee. He tallied 525 goals and 1,134 points, won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and developed into a strong two-way forward.

Holland got in as a builder for his work with the Detroit Red Wings, building on a solid foundation to turn that club into a league powerhouse and Stanley Cup champion.

Wilson’s induction was long overdue. He was one of the best defensemen of the 1980s, winning the Norris Trophy in 1982. He was also a first-team all-star in 1982 and a two-time second-team all-star while netting 827 points in 1,024 games.

Lowe had a fine NHL career, winning six Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers. Nevertheless, I don’t think he should have received the nod over more deserving former stars like Alexander Mogilny, Rod Brind’Amour, and Daniel Alfredsson.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston feels the NHL faces a formidable challenge maintaining momentum toward resuming the season as more players return to their respective teams this week. More players mean more COVID-19 testing, which could result in more positive test results. Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan sees training camps open on July 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players are returning to their NHL cities by Friday to allow sufficient time to test and self-isolate those who test positive for 14 days. That would allow suitable recovery time before training camp.

The next month will determine if the 24-team playoff tournament begins in August as planned. A significant spike in positive tests could jeopardize the tournament.

THE SCORE: Older NHL coaches are putting their trust in the league’s restart plan despite being in a higher risk category for COVID-19. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports 12 active members on NHL coaching staffs will be 60-or-older by the end of June. The league won’t impose age restrictions on the coaching staff, leaving it up to the individuals to determine if they wish to participate or not.

VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma reports a snag in local health protocols for positive COVID-19 tests could threaten Vancouver’s chances to become one of the two host cities for Phase 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Thomas Drance reports the disagreement is in the details. Pierre LeBrun said the Canucks continue to work on this issue with the league, but he and Drance agree it could prove insurmountable.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning reopened its training facility Wednesday after five players and staff tested positive las Friday. Those individuals are now in quarantine.

Former Sportsnet pundit John Shannon reports the NHL Players Association wants the July 1 bonus payments to the players to proceed as scheduled. Shannon said he’s heard the league prefer deferring those payments to the end of the tournament. More than $300 million are owed in bonus payments.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shannon indicates the bonus payments are among the issues currently being discussed by both sides. They tentatively agreed to extend expiring contracts to Oct. 31.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: As coronavirus cases rise in Nevada, the Vegas Golden Knights are selling t-shirts encouraging fans to wear masks in public.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The slogan on the shirts is “Don’t Take A Chance”. Maybe it should read, “Don’t Take A Chance On Spoiling Our Hopes of Hosting The Playoff Tournament.”

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: Construction of the Calgary Flames’ new arena will begin in August 20201.

NEWSDAY: Despite the owner of Nassau Coliseum shutting down the arena as he seeks a buyer, a county executive suggests the New York Islanders could still use the building next season until their new arena in Belmont Park is ready.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

​​A growing number of NHL stars are speaking out against racial justice, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray talks about his club’s future in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE NHL STARS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE

TSN: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban pledged $50,000 to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna’s GoFundMe page.

“Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same: no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen, change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part.”

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 13: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins poses for his official headshot for the 2019-2020 season on September 13, 2019 at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Patrice Bergeron

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pledged $25,000 to the Boston branch of the NAACP and $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.

 “Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Jason Zucker, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber and teammate Brendan Gallagher, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and winger Tom Wilson, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson joined a growing list of NHL stars issuing statements speaking out against racial injustice.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas believes his club can and should do more to combat systemic racism.

“I think what we’ve learned, especially in the last number of days, is that with the Maple Leafs and with our players and with our staff … we need to be doing more on the anti-racism side of things. Not only with our statements and our words and our tweets and what we put out there but with our actions, and we know that people will be watching us and holding us accountable in that regard.”

ESPN.COM: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes described his experiences as a black player in a predominantly white sport.

“The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor,” Weekes said. “And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.”

Weekes called upon the NHL to implement harsher punishments for racially motivated incidents or slurs and to evaluate its relationship with local police departments.

For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players, to do hyperscreening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We’ll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell notes the growing number of NHL players speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and racism toward black people have galvanized the sport. He wonders if this will bring about necessary change within hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL stars adding their voices against racial injustice, bigotry, and intolerance. However, they must back up their comments by actively working against racism within the sport and in society

Subban and Bergeron accompanied their words with deeds. Hopefully, other players will follow their example.

I’m not doubting the players’ sincerity, but if they don’t back up their comments with positive action, their words will ring hollow.

LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported an NHL source said the league hasn’t yet whittled down its list of 10 potential hub cities down to two for its return-to-play tournament. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago are believed in the running. The league could narrow down that list and finding suitable locations within the next two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent protests against racial injustice in many US cities could affect the league’s decision. The potential Canadian locations depend upon whether the Canadian government eases its current COVID-19 border restrictions or deems NHL employees as essential works.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the NHL won’t begin Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan until all 31 teams can safely and legally reopen their training facilities. There are also complications involving foreign-born players being allowed to return to their Canadian NHL cities because of the country’s border restrictions. July 10 is the earliest date training camps could open, with the 24-team tournament beginning in late July or early August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 allows the players to return to their respective NHL cities to engage in voluntary small-group training in their practice facilities. The league is believed to be aiming for mid-June to formally introduce that phase.

SPORTSNET: Ontario premier Doug Ford said the NHL told him it would use private labs to process COVID-19 tests of players and staff should the league resume plan this summer. Toronto is among the teams on the proposed list of hub cities for the return-to-play tournament.

DUCKS GM EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT NEXT SEASON

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Elliott Teaford reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray voiced his displeasure over his club’s poor performance this season. He expects improvement and more accountability from his players in 2020-21.

Murray singled out his core players. “No excuses,” he said. “All of our core guys have to pick up their games.” He also intends to meet next week with head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff in person if possible.

The Ducks GM spoke about his club’s free agents. We’ve talked to them all,” Murray said. “In some cases, we have the hammer. In some cases, they have the hammer. There’s not going to be a lot of money out there (because of the coronavirus pause in play). The (salary) cap could be flat for a couple of years. Revenues could be tight.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks were a mess last season. Teaford cited their anemic offense, underachieving special teams, and inconsistent play.

Part of it had to do with their rebuilding roster, as several promising youngsters failed to play up to expectations. Some of it was Eakin readjusting to the NHL game after coaching in the minors. Some of it was core players like Rickard Rakell failing to step up. Murray can demand accountability but it remains to be seen if the Ducks can elevate their play.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 30, 2020

Recent speculation on the Red Wings, Sharks, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD RED WINGS TARGET KRUG, BARRIE, OR LEHNER?

THE DETROIT NEWS: Bob Wojnowski recently reported Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman acknowledged he might be slightly more aggressive in shaping his roster this off-season via trades and free agency. He wants to build up the supporting cast around Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi as the young core improves.

The Detroit Red Wings could have interest in Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug if he hits the UFA market (Photo via NHL Images)

Yzerman stressed he won’t go into the free-agent market to make a splash. He’ll instead focus on “sensible signings”. He remains confident he’ll re-sign restricted free agents like Mantha and Bertuzzi. “We’re not gonna let them go anywhere, we’ll get deals done,” he said.

Wojnowski speculated the Wings might be interested in pending UFA defensemen like Boston’s Torey Krug and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie or a goalie like Vegas’ Robin Lehner. “But who knows if they’d be interested in the Wings, who have decent young players and lots of draft picks, but few guaranteed stars,” said Wojnowski.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite having plenty of salary-cap space, Yzerman remains focused on a patient rebuild. I expect we’ll see more trades akin to last fall’s Robby Fabbri deal with St. Louis, targeting struggling young players on other clubs. He could be very interested in Krug, Barrie, or Lehner if they express interest in coming to Detroit, but he’ll likely have to settle for affordable second-tier depth talent on short-term deals.

SHARKS FACE BUSY OFF-SEASON

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White recently reported San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces a busy off-season. He must hire a full-time head coach, shore up his goaltending, add scoring depth on the wings, supplement his aging, expensive core with young NHL talent, and do it all with a limited budget.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Resolving the coaching situation seems the easiest of Wilson’s tasks this off-season. Wilson seems to be leaning toward removing the interim tag from head coach Bob Boughner’s title. The rest will be challenging. 

Wilson could peddle the 2020 first-round pick he acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning before the trade deadline to bring in an established young NHL player. However, that would leave him without a pick in the opening round.

Most of his core veterans have no-trade protection and hefty contracts. Wilson could shop restricted free agent winger Kevin Labanc, but then he’d have to find someone to replace him. He could pursue a UFA backup like Dallas’ Anton Khudobin or the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, but he’ll have competition from other clubs for their services.

NO LONG-TERM UFA SIGNINGS FOR THE SENATORS

NHL.COM: Mike G. Morreale reports Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is unlikely to sign any unrestricted free agents this year to long-term contracts. He could instead add some veteran depth on short-term deals.

The draft order could also determine how busy Dorion might be in the UFA market. He could have three picks in the first round, seven in the opening two rounds, and 13 over seven rounds. “If you’re going to pick Nos. 1-2, it’s different than picking Nos. 5-6,” Dorion said. “The players going 1-2 probably have a higher chance of playing in the NHL next year. At the same time, we know we’re going to take two good players with our first two picks.”

Morreale speculates Dorion could use some of those picks as trade bait leading up to the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion has sufficient cap room next season to add a couple of decent UFA depth players on short-term deals. He could make his biggest splash at the draft, using some of those extra picks to perhaps pry a quality talent away from a cap-strapped club.

If the Senators win the draft lottery, perhaps Dorion will be tempted to dangle the conditional first-rounder he got from the Islanders in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau deal as trade bait.










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – San Jose Sharks

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – San Jose Sharks