The San Jose Sharks Facing Glum Future
Recaps from Friday’s action, the Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to trade Pierre-Luc Dubois, the latest notable injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Anton Khudobin had a 34-shot shutout as the Dallas Stars crushed the Nashville Predators 7-0. The Stars tallied a franchise-record five power-play goals in their season-opener which had been delayed nearly two weeks due to a spread of COVID-19 among several players. Alexander Radulov and Joe Pavelski each scored twice for the Stars but captain Jamie Benn left the game with a lower-body injury following an awkward collision with Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in the second period. The club provided no update on Benn’s status following the game.
The Washington Capitals edged the Buffalo Sabre 4-3 on a shootout goal by John Carlson. Jakub Vrana had a goal and an assist for the Capitals but they also lost rugged winger Tom Wilson to a lower-body injury. The Caps were playing without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov as the four were recently placed on their COVID-19 absence list. Sabres rookie Dylan Cozens tallied his first career NHL goal.
Kris Letang netted the game-winner in a shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a 3-1 deficit to nip the New York Rangers 4-3. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 31 saves for his first win of the season. Former Charlottetown Islanders defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph collected an assist in his NHL debut with the Penguins.
Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares broke a 2-2 tie with a third-period power-play goal in a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scored for the Oilers. The Leafs were playing without Auston Matthews and Joe Thornton. Matthews (upper-body) isn’t expected to be sidelined for long but Thornton (fractured rib) will be out for at least a month.
The Chicago Blackhawks picked up their first victory of the season by downing the Detroit Red Wings 4-1. Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen kicked out 30 shots for his first career NHL win while Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist.
San Jose Sharks goaltender Devan Dubnyk lost his first game against his former club as the Minnesota Wild picked up a 4-1 win. Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway each had a goal and an assist for the Wild while Kaapo Kakhonen got the win after replacing sidelined starter Cam Talbot, who left the game with a lower-body injury. It’s uncertain how long Talbot could be sidelined but he’s expected to miss Sunday’s rematch.
The Arizona Coyotes spoiled the Vegas Golden Knights’ home-opener with a 5-2 victory to snap the latter’s four-game season-opening win streak. Conor Garland led the way for the Coyotes with a goal and two assists. Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (undisclosed) missed the game but will rejoin his teammates for Tuesday’s match against the Anaheim Ducks.
Boom. Told that the Blue Jackets are also sending a third-round pick to Winnipeg as part of this blockbuster deal. https://t.co/ZtyyhiV5aP
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 23, 2021
TSN: Darren Dreger last night reported the Columbus Blue Jackets are closing in on a trade involving Pierre-Luc Dubois. The 22-year-old center requested a trade earlier this month and was benched for most of Thursday’s games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dreger reports the Winnipeg Jets are the front-runners, although nothing is done yet. He speculates Patrik Laine or Jack Roslovic could be part of this deal as both players requested trades from the Jets. Dreger feels a trade could be done before the end of this weekend, perhaps as early as Saturday.
Pierre LeBrun points out Roslovic, a Columbus native, would be a natural fit with the Blue Jackets. He also reports the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens appear to be among the other interested clubs.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline tweeted Dubois was informed he’ll be a healthy scratch for Saturday’s rematch against the Lightning, assuming he’s still on the team by then.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was assumed Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen preferred to retain Dubois for the remainder of this season and attempt to trade the center in the offseason. Dubois’ benching on Thursday, however, appears to have created an untenable situation that cannot be allowed to fester any longer. I’ll have more about this in the Rumors section.
Speaking of Laine, he’s nursing an upper-body injury and was placed on injured reserve yesterday by the Jets. Nate Thompson (lower body) was also placed on IR.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle could return to the lineup today against the Jets after missing the last two games with an undisclosed ailment.
USA TODAY: NBC Universal will reportedly shut down its main sports channel (NBCSN) at the end of 2021. NBC owns the NHL’s national broadcast rights in the United States, with most of the league’s game televised on NBCSN. The league’s deal with the network expires at the end of this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL intended to shop around for a new broadcasting deal this summer. If they stay with NBC, their games would be shown on USA Network, which goes into more homes than NBCSN currently does.
The NHL announces sponsors for its realigned divisions, plus updates on David Pastrnak, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Kerfoot and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league has partnered with four sponsors for its realigned divisions for the upcoming 2020-21 season. They will be known as the Scotia NHL North Division, Honda NHL West Division, Discover NHL Central Division, and the MassMutual NHL East Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Or, as I and most hockey fans will refer to them, the North, West, Central and East Divisions.
This news will surely raise hackles among hockey purists already upset over ad logos appearing this season on the players’ helmets. But, as The Athletic’s Scott Burnside indicates, this move is necessary to offset some of the lost revenue this season from the absence of fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This could be simply a one-time thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the practice of division sponsors continues when things (hopefully) return to normal next season.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy yesterday said David Pastrnak was making progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery. The original prognosis for the winger was mid-February but Cassidy suggested it could be a little earlier than that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A late January or early February return for Pastrnak seems possible. The sooner the high-scoring winger returns to the Bruins first line, the better their chances of maintaining their status as a Stanley Cup contender this season.
NHL.COM: Dougie Hamilton wants to remain with the Carolina Hurricanes and hopes the two sides can work out a new contract. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hamilton said he’ll leave the negotiations to his agent and focus on the upcoming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell has indicated a willingness to sign Hamilton to a contract extension. The blueliner’s asking price and the Hurricanes’ inclination to meet it will determine if he has a future in Carolina.
Hamilton was considered a serious contender for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg last January. Another Norris-worth performance could price him out of the Hurricanes’ comfort zone.
CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot was banged up in training camp yesterday and is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Alex Tuch took a maintenance day yesterday as a precautionary measure after experiencing soreness following the first day of on-ice drills on Monday.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders have reportedly signed free-agent winger Matt Martin to a four-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.5 million. He’ll be 36 when this contract expires.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal ensures Martin could retire as an Islander, though he could be selected by Seattle in this summer’s expansion draft if left unprotected. The checking-line winger is considered one of the Isles’ glue guys, the type of hard-working player who brings the team together.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman Joel Hanley missed practice yesterday. He’s been declared “unfit to practice” and listed as day-to-day.
THE SCORE: Former Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill was hired by the Seattle Kraken as an assistant general manager to GM Ron Francis. Former Chicago Blackhawks executive Norm McIver was hired as the Kraken’s director of player personnel.
NHLPA: Colin Wilson officially announced his retirement yesterday following 11 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. He scored 113 goals and 286 points in 632 regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Wilson and his family in their future endeavors.
Congratulations to Team USA for their 2-0 victory over Team Canada to win the gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championships. It’s the fourth straight time in as many meetings that Team USA has defeated Canada in the gold-medal game.
Florida Panthers’ goalie prospect Spencer Knight made 34 saves for the shutout. Anaheim Ducks prospect center Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist while Los Angeles Kings prospect center Alex Turcotte also tallied for the Americans. Zegras led the tournament with 18 points and was named tournament MVP.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russia may be Canada’s oldest hockey rival but the United States is the biggest rival and has been for some time.
Another updated list of the top UFAs, including the latest on Mike Hoffman, Zdeno Chara and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Forwards Mike Hoffman, Erik Haula and Corey Perry top TSN’s listing of the best remaining unrestricted free agents. Winger Mikael Granlund and defenseman Sami Vatanen round out the top five.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun believes Hoffman could be a fit with the St. Louis Blues. With Alexander Steen’s playing days ended by a back injury, LeBrun speculated they could put his $5.75 million on long-term injury reserve and use the savings to sign Hoffman.
Cap Friendly indicates the Blues are over the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.175 million, with restricted free agent Vince Dunn to be signed. That might not leave enough to land Hoffman, who’s open to a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. They could get more flexibility by placing Vladimir Taransenko (shoulder surgery) and his $7.5 million cap hit on LTIR, but they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns later in the season.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Carl Soderberg, blueliner Travis Hamonic and winger Ilya Kovalchuk round out the top 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston reports Chara’s agent said the Bruins have been “very communicative” with them over how they see things going forward. Team president Cam Neely said his club was still trying to flush out where things stand with their former captain. Neely said they still respect Chara but couldn’t say where the 43-year-old would fit on their blueline.
Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now pointed out the Bruins’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson earlier in the offseason. He also reported they’ve been linked to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin in the rumor mill.
If the Bruins don’t sign Chara, perhaps they’ll swing a trade to address their lack of skilled depth on the left side of their blueline. Revisiting an Ekman-Larsson deal seems unlikely. The Hanifin speculation originated with a reporter suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Bruins but there’s no indication the two clubs have discussed it.
Kovalchuk is reportedly signing with KHL club Avangard Omsk because he couldn’t find any takers in the NHL. Maybe that changes now that we know the start date for this season.
Wingers Matt Martin, Conor Sheary, Michael Frolik and Colin Wilson and defenseman Mirco Mueller rank from 11 to 15.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martin is believed to have a one-year deal with the New York Islanders that will be officially announced once they re-sign RFA center Mathew Barzal. Wilson seems to be transitioning from his playing career after recently revealing his treatments for OCD and nagging hip injuries.
Forwards Melker Karlsson and Trevor Lewis, defensemen Ben Hutton and Andy Greene and goaltender Ryan Miller fill slots 16 to 20.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson recently signed for the season with a Swedish club and isn’t expected to return to the NHL. Like Martin, Greene is said to have a deal with the Isles pending their signing of Barzal. With teams allowed to carry a third goalie this season on their “taxi squad”, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wonders if this could improve the value of unsigned goalies such as Miller.
Defensemen Ron Hainsey, Michael Del Zotto, Madison Bowey, and Jan Rutta and forward Brian Boyle come in from 21 to 26.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drake Caggiula was also among this group but he signed yesterday with the Arizona Coyotes.
Defenseman Karl Alzner, forwards Michael Grabner, Fredrik Gauthier and Riley Sheahan and goalies Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson round out the rest of the list.
The NHL and NHLPA formally approve a 56-game season, the Blues will reportedly name Ryan O’Reilly as team captain, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines
TSN: The NHL and NHL Players Association formally agreed yesterday to play a 56-game season commencing on Jan. 13, 2021.
The league’s aim is to return to a normal hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season.
Both sides intend to be flexible and adaptable to ensure compliance with local and national health and safety directives for their players and game-related personnel.
The league will be split into four divisions (see chart at left) for this season with no conferences. Training camp open for last season’s seven non-playoff teams on Dec. 31. The rest of the league begins camp on Jan. 3. There won’t be any exhibition games.
The playoffs will feature 16 teams in a best-of-seven, four-round format that will conclude no later than July 15. The top-four teams in each division will qualify, featuring intradivisional matchups in the first two rounds (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3). The two semifinal winners will face off in the Stanley Cup Final.
Frank Seravalli reports multiple provincial health authorities in Canada have not yet signed off on the league’s plan and protocol amid concerns over rising COVID-19 rates in several provinces. Discussions between the league and the provinces are expected to continue this week. If no agreement is reached, the seven Canadian teams could begin the season in a hub city such as Edmonton or in US cities.
Several US teams, such as the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, are expected to begin the season with a limited number of fans in their arenas.
The San Jose Sharks announced they will train and open the season in Arizona due to the ban on mass gatherings in Santa Clara County, California.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL is making this change to the divisions and playoff format for this season only. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how fans respond to these changes. If the reaction is positive, perhaps the league would consider adopting them going forward.
The critical dates are as follows:
Dec: 31: Training camp opens for last season’s seven non-playoff teams,
Jan.3: Training camps open for the remaining 24 teams,
April 12: NHL trade deadline,
May 8: End of the regular season,
May 11: Stanley Cup playoffs begin,
July 15: Last possible day to award the Stanley Cup,
July 21: Seattle Kraken expansion draft,
July 23-24: NHL Draft (location to be determined),
July 28: Free agency begins,
October: 2021-22 regular season begins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of those regular-season and playoff dates could change depending on the course of the pandemic. The league intends to leave some wiggle room in the schedule for games postponed by the pandemic. The NHL Draft could be staged in Montreal as that’s where this year’s draft was supposed to be held.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the Canadian teams will face off against each other 10 times in the upcoming season.
Health authorities in British Columbia have raised the most concerns over the NHL’s plan, while Ontario and Quebec have yet to formally commit. Alberta and Manitoba are believed most comfortable with the plan while Quebec Premier Francois Legault expressed his happiness – “Bonne nouvelle! (Good news!) – following yesterday’s announcement by the league.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Vancouver Canucks seem most likely to be starting this season playing in another city. Ontario is going into a month-long province-wide lockdown on Christmas eve, which could force the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs into a hub city in Edmonton. It remains to be seen what Quebec will do. The teams in those provinces could be allowed to return to their arenas if restrictions ease over the course of the season. We’ll probably learn more before the end of this week.
Johnston’s colleague Elliotte Friedman reports training camp will consist of 36 players and an unlimited number of goaltenders. He also indicates no-movement clauses are extended through July. That will allow players who have one to use it if they wish during the expansion draft. The entry-level slide for rookies drops this season from 10 games to seven.
PUCKPEDIA: examines some interesting aspects of the transition rules for the coming season and the effects upon the salary cap for 2020-21.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson confirmed some of the team’s players skating in Europe in recent months tested positive for COVID-19. However, none who trained in San Jose tested positive. They’re not aware of any player currently prevented by the coronavirus from traveling to North America.
THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford cites sources claiming Ryan O’Reilly will be named the new captain of the St. Louis Blues. He will replace Alex Pietrangelo, who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly is a perfect choice for team captain. As Rutherford points out, he’s become a leader and a core player since joining the Blues in 2018. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Blues won the 2019 Stanley Cup and the Selke Trophy in 2019.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) December 20, 2020