List of notable players who didn’t receive qualifying offers and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS: Washington Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek, Chicago Blackhawks winger Anthony Duclair, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Derrick Pouliot and Los Angeles Kings forward Tobias Rieder were among the notable players who didn’t receive qualifying offers yesterday.
Washington Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly was among several notable NHL players not to receive qualifying offers yesterday (Photo via NHL Images).
Others included Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, Colorado Avalanche winger Nail Yakupov and Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Riley Sheahan and Tom Kuhnhackl.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: These players can still sign with their current teams and some are believed still in contract discussions. Most, however, will become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and can sign with anyone on that date.
The Capitals not qualifying playoff hero Smith-Pelly raised some eyebrows. They’re reportedly still talking contract with him and it’s believed they made this move to avoid arbitration with the winger. It remains to be seen, however, if they’ll reach agreement on a new deal.
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings agreed to a “two-year deal with Tyler Bertuzzi ($1.4 million cap hit) and a one-year contract with Martin Frk ($1.05 million cap hit).”
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, $750K contract.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The Penguins re-signed wingers Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon to two-year contracts each worth $750K annually.
NHL.COM: The Minnesota Wild agreed to terms with defenseman Ryan Murphy on a one-year, two-way deal worth $650K at the NHL level.
Latest on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins plus updates on Joe Thornton and Nail Yakupov in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?
ESPN.COM: In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff elimination by the Washington Capitals, Emily Kaplan considers bolstering their blueline depth to be their offseason priority. With the salary cap going up, she feels they have enough space to add a reliable second- or third-pairing defenseman, perhaps by signing a middle-tier free agent. She speculates little-used defenseman Matt Hunwick could become a buyout candidate.
Kaplan also notes it’s reasonable to assume restricted free agents Riley Sheahan, Dominik Simon, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust and Jamie Oleksiak will be re-signed “if the money is fair.” Their most notable UFA is Carter Rowney. The Penguins lack a first- and fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. Kaplan suggests perhaps dangling “some of their NHL-ready or almost-NHL-ready talent as trade bait”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins won’t have to do much tweaking for next season. They’ll remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Still, they should do something to improve their blueline, especially considering the high number of odd-man rushes they gave up this season.
Cap Friendly indicates they have over $70 million invested in 17 players. Should the cap reach $80 million they might have sufficient room to re-sign their free-agents but not enough to bring in a mid-tier defenseman without shedding some salary first. Buying out Hunwick would free up an additional $1.7 million next season.
Should the Boston Bruins shop Torey Krug for a defenseman who could better suit their needs? (Photo via NHL Images)
LATEST ON THE BRUINS
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins’ offseason priority is addressing their left-side defense and it could prove costly to fill. He suggested shopping defenseman Torey Krug to a team that could use his puck-moving skills for a left-shot blueliner who could better serve the Bruins’ defensive needs. He noted the Edmonton Oilers have Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse but the Bruins might have to package Krug with additional assets to land either guy.
Shinzawa also suggests the Bruins re-sign backup Anton Khudobin, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen could be in the mix to fill the second-line right-wing role as UFA Rick Nash won’t be back. They could also use a third-line center and perhaps a third-line right wing if David Backes isn’t up to the role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $65 million committed to 17 players and all their core players under contract next season, the Bruins have sufficient cap space to re-sign their remaining free agents and have sufficient space to pursue a left-side defenseman via free agency or trade.
Free-agent options could include Columbus’ Jack Johnson, Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis, New Jersey’s John Moore and the New York Islanders’ Calvin de Haan. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could instead decide to go the trade route.
Moving Krug would certainly be a bold move. While the Oilers could use an offensive rearguard with his skills, I’m not sure if there’s a deal to be had between the two clubs. For that matter, we don’t know if Bruins GM Don Sweeney would even consider trading Krug.
UPDATES ON THORNTON AND YAKUPOV
THE MERCURY NEWS: Paul Gackle wonders if this season was center Joe Thornton’s last with the San Jose Sharks. He noted the Sharks played well during Thornton’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. He believes GM Doug Wilson can retain Thornton without compromising the the strides the roster made in the veteran’s absence, provided the latter is willing to accept a reduced role, perhaps dropping him to the third line.
Complicating things could be other possible offseason moves, such as perhaps pursuing Islanders center John Tavares via free agency, possibly re-signing pending UFA Evander Kane and re-upping RFAs such as Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: How much Thornton wants to re-sign with the Sharks will also be a factor. He could accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal but it’ll have to be for much less than his $8 million cap hit for this season.
TSN: cites a report from BSN Denver’s Adrian Dater asking agent Igor Larionov if Colorado Avalanche winger Nail Yakupov if he was heading back to the KHL. “He’s a grown man, and he will decide what’s best for him,” Yakupov’s agent, Igor Larionov, told Dater.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yakupov is a restricted free agent and unlikely to get a qualifying offer from the Avalanche. Having flamed out with the Avs and the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, it’s doubtful he’ll get a contract offer from another NHL club.
NHL Random Thoughts – Way Too Early in the Season Edition
Barely two weeks into the NHL’s 2017-18 campaign, there’s considerable focus upon a noticeable increase in scoring.
As of Oct. 14, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin had nine goals while Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Vegas’ James Neal each had six. Seven others – Ovechkin’s linemate T.J. Oshie, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and the New York Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad – had five.
At his current pace, Ovechkin and Neal are on track to notch 123 goals, the others over 80. They simply won’t come anywhere near those lofty totals in today’s NHL.
That’s an impressive pace for those players. It’s also unsustainable.
Yes, there’s a lot of excitement generated by those impressive goal stats. They’ve been aided in part by the recent crackdown on slashing and cheating in the faceoff circle, resulting in more power-play opportunities.
Still, those players simply cannot maintain that level of production in today’s NHL throughout an entire season.
Of those players currently among the top goal scorers, only Ovechkin, Kucherov and Matthews have a shot at reaching 50 goals this season. Ovechkin’s done it seven times before. Kucherov and Matthews each tallied 40 goals last season and are at the stage in their respective careers where they’re trending upward.
So enjoy these high-scoring exploits while you still can. Once coaches and players figure out how to work around those new rules, and when the number of penalty calls inevitably decline over the course of the season, the number of power-play opportunities will diminish and so will the scoring chances.
Speaking of unsustainable, the Vegas Golden Knights are unlikely to maintain the pace that saw them bolt from the gate with a 3-1-0 record.
The Knights deserve credit for setting an NHL record as the first expansion team to win their first three games. Winning their first-ever regular-season home game provided a welcome tonic for a city still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
Winger James Neal’s surprisingly hot start and Marc-Andre Fleury’s solid goaltending were significant factors in those victories. It also didn’t hurt that they faced the woeful Arizona Coyotes in two of those games.
Unlike most expansion teams in league history, the Knights benefited from an expansion draft weighted to help them land some quality players. They’ve got solid management led by George McPhee and a respected head coach in Gerard Gallant.
The Knights, however, still lack sufficient talent to maintain their current level of success. Don’t let those early victories fool you, they’re not a playoff contender.
They’re also entering this week facing their first serious bout of adversity. Fleury and forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Erik Haula were placed on injured reserve and are expected to be sidelined at least a week.
Still, the Golden Knights won’t be an easy two points this season. McPhee put together a decent inaugural roster, giving himself something to build upon. Gallant will ensure they’re a competitive group. Veterans such as Neal and Fleury bring invaluable skill, experience and leadership.
In time, the Golden Knights should become a playoff club. It just won’t happen this season.
Hats off to Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who tied Curtis Joseph for fourth on the NHL’s all-time wins list (454). He’s 30 wins away from reaching Ed Belfour (484) for third.
Luongo won’t catch Martin Brodeur (691 wins) and Patrick Roy (551 wins). Still, his accomplishment is testament to his superb goaltending over the course of an NHL career that began in 1999-2000.
Most of Luongo’s wins (252) came during his nearly eight-season run with the Vancouver Canucks. From 2006-07 to 2011-12, he played a significant role in turning the Canucks into a power in the Western Conference.
Before that, Luongo amassed 115 wins during his NHL debut with Mad Mike Milbury’s New York Islanders, followed by his first tenure with the sad-sack Florida Panthers from 2000 to 2006.
At his peak, Luongo was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy three times (2004, 2007 and 2011) and a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2007.
Had Luongo played the bulk of his career with strong clubs, as Brodeur and Roy did, he would be much higher in the career wins category. That’s not to diminish the accomplishments of those Hall of Famers, but it certainly didn’t hurt that they played for perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
Now 38 and back with the Panthers, Luongo’s in the twilight of his NHL career. Winning a Stanley Cup appears a long shot for him at this point and his best seasons are in the past.
Despite the lack of individual honors and Stanley Cup titles, Luongo’s built a convincing case for his inevitable induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
At the end of last season, winger Nail Yakupov’s NHL career appeared to be over.
The first-overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Yakupov had a promising rookie campaign in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, netting 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games. Over the next three seasons, however, he struggled with an Oilers team that underwent numerous changes on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office.
Traded to the St. Louis Blues last season, Yakupov managed just nine points in 40 games and was a frequent healthy scratch. Cut loose by the Blues in June, it seemed doubtful that he’d land with another NHL club.
But the Colorado Avalanche were willing to take a chance, inking him to a one-year, $875K deal. The laughingstock of the league last season, the Avs needed scoring depth. Signing a former first-overall pick at a bargain price seemed like a worthwhile gamble.
So far, it’s paid off for Yakupov and the Avs. They were 4-1-0 in their first five games, with the 23-year-old winger tallying three goals and two assists for five points.
It’s doubtful Yakupov can maintain this offensive pace. He and the Avs will likely return to earth in the coming weeks. But at least his bid to salvage his NHL career is off to a good start. If he can put up respectable numbers over the course of the season, he can expect to stick with the Avs for a while.
The Minnesota Wild’s hopes for a strong start to this season were dealt a serious blow last week when forwards Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Marcus Foligno were sidelined.
Coyle’s out six-to-eight weeks with a broken leg, Niederreiter at least three with a high-ankle sprain and Foligno at least a week with a facial fracture.
The Wild were already missing Zach Parise (back)and Mikael Granlund (groin). Those two could return within the next week, but the Wild will find it difficult offsetting the absences of Coyle and Niederreiter, who were expected to become their offensive leaders this season.
This is going to be a tough test of the Wild’s depth. How they address this challenge could have a significant effect upon their season.
Games recaps and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal and set up another as the Pittsburgh Penguins hung on for a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. It was Hornqvist’s first game since undergoing hand surgery in the offseason. Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading eight goal for the Caps.
Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored twice and Cory Schneider made 47 saves as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3, handing the latter their first loss of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs outshot the Devils 50-31 but defensive breakdowns proved costly. The Devils, meanwhile, are 3-0-0 to open this season.
Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and Sean Monahan netted the winner in overtime to give the Calgary Flames a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Dustin Brown scored twice for the Kings in a losing cause. Jaromir Jagr made his debut with the Flames but was held off the score sheet.
Josh Gibson made 38 saves backstopping the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Brock Nelson tallied twice for the Isles.
Sven Andrighetto scored twice and Nail Yakupov had a two-point game as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Boston Bruins 6-3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yakupov has three goals and five points in his first four games of this season. After struggling for the past three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, the former first-overall draft pick looks comfortable with the Avalanche. He’s among the reasons they’ve won three of their first four games.
TWINCITIES.COM: Limited salary-cap space (around $200K) is preventing the Minnesota Wild from calling up a forward to complete their fourth line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They could demote defenseman Mike Reilly as he’s exempt from waivers but they appear reluctant to do that right now.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes placed forward Brendan Perlini (upper body) on injured reserve and recalled forward Emerson Etem.
THE TENNESSEAN: Former Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher is settling into life after retirement.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Only 7,892 fans showed up for the Carolina Hurricanes’ recent home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the fact the Hurricanes last made the playoffs in 2009, it’s unsurprising their attendance was that low for an early-season Tuesday night game. If they can become a legitimate playoff club this season, the fans will return.
THE DETROIT NEWS: A fan who tossed an octopus onto the ice during the Red Wings’ home opener at the new Little Caesars Arena will not be banned from returning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The octopus toss is a 65-year-old tradition with the Red Wings. The fan was escorted from the building and received a misdemeanor fine.
Florida Panthers ship Jason Demers to the Arizona Coyotes for Jamie McGinn.
Panthers trade Demers to Coyotes plus updates on Joffrey Lupul, Nail Yakupov & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
ARIZONA SPORTS/SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers traded defenseman Jason Demers to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for winger Jamie McGinn. The Panthers also retain over $562K of his $4.5 million annual salary-cap hit over the remaining four seasons of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Demers was the subject of offseason trade speculation following reports he nixed a trade to the Vancouver Canucks for Erik Gudbranson. The Coyotes obviously weren’t on his eight-team no-trade list.
It’s a good move by the Coyotes, bolstering their veteran depth for the long term while addressing the short-term absence of promising Jakob Chychrun to a knee injury. McGinn, meanwhile, is expected to bring more gritty size and skill to the Panthers’ forward lines. A 22-goal scorer with the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks in 2015-16, he hopes to rebound from a disappointing nine-goal effort last season with the Coyotes.
TORONTO STAR: Sidelined Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul took to social media recently to suggest he didn’t fail his training camp physical. Responding to a comment on the subject on his Instagram account, Lupul said, ““Haha failed physical. They cheat, everyone lets them.” He later deleted the remark.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will only stoke suspicions the Leafs are playing fast and loose with LTIR rules to free up cap space for other players. However, it appears to a murky issue, one the league apparently cannot prevent under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
BSN DENVER: Having signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche, winger Nail Yakupov knows this is his last chance at redemption in the NHL. The first-overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, Yakupov has so far failed to play up to expectations as a scoring forward.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons is looking forward to a fresh start under new head coach Phil Housley.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Tyler Wong tallied a hat trick as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Vancouver Canucks 9-4, picking up their first preseason win in franchise history.
THE PROVINCE: Ed Willes has an in-depth report on the rise of hockey in China.
Ilya Kovalchuk will remain in the KHL next season.
Kovalchuk to stay in KHL, arbitration news, noteworthy contract signings & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be returning to the NHL in 2017-18 after all. The New Jersey Devils, who own his NHL rights until July 1, 2018, unsuccessfully attempted to trade him to another club. Kovalchuk can return to the NHL next summer as an unrestricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have on Kovalchuk and the Devils later this morning in the Rumors section.
STARTRIBUNE.COM/NBC SPORTS: Sources say Minnesota Wild winger Nino Niederreiter intends to file for player-elected arbitration. Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar could also do the same.
CSN ATLANTIC: The Washington Capitals re-signed forward Andre Burakovsky to a two-year, $6 million bridge contract. The annual average value is $3 million.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes yesterday acquired center Marcus Kruger from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a salary dump by the Golden Knights, who acquired Kruger and his $3.083 million cap hit from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of a deal for selecting defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk in last month’s expansion draft. van Riemsdyk was subsequently shipped to the Hurricanes, who’ve now added experienced checking line depth at center in Kruger.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Rangers signed unrestricted free agent center David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million contract.
BSN DENVER: The Colorado Avalanche signed UFA right wing Nail Yakupov to a one-year, $875K one-way contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be the 2012 first overall pick’s last chance to salvage his once-promising NHL career.
TSN: Vegas Golden Knights sign Oscar Lindberg to a two-year, $3.4 million contract.