NHL Buyout Barometer – Atlantic Division (Part 1)
Evgeni Malkin reaches a career milestone, Taylor Hall collects his first point as a Coyote, Ilya Kovalchuk becomes a free agent, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Evgeni Malkin tallied his 400th career goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Calgary Flames 4-1. He’s the fourth player in Penguins history to reach that milestone. Tristan Jarry made 33 saves as the Penguins picked up their third straight victory. Kris Letang and Bryan Rust also netted two points.
Taylor Hall picked up his first point with the Arizona Coyotes in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. Hall picked up a well-earned assist on Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s game-winning goal.
Anze Kopitar’s overtime goal lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Boston Bruins 4-3. The Bruins have dropped six of their last seven games. Earlier in the day, Kings winger Ilya Kovalchuk became an unrestricted free agent after clearing unconditional waivers, allowing the Kings to terminate his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Kovalchuk’s struggles with the Kings, there’s plenty of speculation suggesting the 36-year-old winger could end up with another NHL club. I’ll have more this morning in the Rumors section.
The Carolina Hurricanes picked up their second straight win by downing the Winnipeg Jets 6-3. Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal each scored twice, Dougie Hamilton collected three assists, and Andrei Svechnikov tallied his second lacrosse-style goal of the season. Meanwhile, the estranged relationship between the Jets and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien took a step toward improvement as the blueliner is rehabbing his injured ankle in consultation with the club. He remains under suspension for failing to report to training camp.
Seven unanswered goals powered the Nashville Predators to an 8-3 drubbing of the New York Islanders. Calle Jarnkork and Craig Smith each had three-point performances for the Predators. Meanwhile, Islanders winger Josh Ho-Sang will report to their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport after a two-month absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ho-Sang was told not to report to Bridgeport by Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello as the latter attempted to honor the winger’s trade request. Ho-Sang needs to play to drum up any interest from rival clubs.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews scored twice as his club held off the Buffalo Sabres 5-3. Sabres captain Jack Eichel extended his points streak to 17 games with a goal and an assist.
The Columbus Blue Jackets swept their back-to-back series against the Detroit Red Wings with a 5-3 victory. Former Wing Gustav Nyquist picked up two points. Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski returned to action for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury on Nov. 30. Jackets blueliner Ryan Murray is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Red Wings rearguard Danny DeKeyser is expected to miss the remainder of the season following back surgery on Tuesday. Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin injury) was sent to their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart made 40 stops in a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who got a boost from Travis Konecny’s return to the lineup following a three-game absence recovering from a concussion. Ducks winger Troy Terry left the game with a knee injury in the second period.
The Tampa Bay Lightning blew a 3-1 lead but went on to edge the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on a brilliant overtime goal by Anthony Cirelli. Earlier in the day, the Senators placed defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (lower body) on injured reserve.
Carey Price kicked out 38 shots backstopping the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Tomas Tatar and Shea Weber each scored power-play goals. The Habs have won four of their last five and sit one point behind the Sabres for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves as the Vegas Golden Knights edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Earlier in the day, the Wild announced winger Jason Zucker is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: Former NHLer and Colorado Eagles player Akim Aliu has accepted “a heartfelt and emotional apology” from Eagles equipment manager Tony Deynzer, who attended a team Halloween party in 2011 in blackface dressed as Aliu. Deynzer will keep his job with the club.
TWINCITIES.COM: Former NHL defenseman Scot Kleinendorst died yesterday of injuries he suffered while on the job at a paper mill in Grand Rapids. He was 59. Kleinendorst spent eight seasons in the NHL from 1982-83 to 1989-90 with the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, and Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Kleinendorst’s family, friends, and former teammates.
P.K. Subban slammed for his poor play, Predators coach Peter Laviolette denies abuse allegations, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Corey Crawford made 29 saves for his 250th career win backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Hawks rookie Kirby Dach tallied the winner in the fifth round of the shootout. The Blackhawks played without Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw, as they were placed on injured reserve earlier in the day. The Devils have dropped four straight games. Speaking of the Devils, the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis implies P.K. Subban is putting marketing himself over hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s declining production in 2018-19 can be attributed to injuries, but that’s not the issue this season. As Cyrgalis suggests, his busy off-ice schedule could have something to do with it. One could argue Subban’s play is suffering because the Devils are a lousy club, but he’s supposed to be a superstar who can elevate any team’s performance.
Cyrgalis also suggests the low return the Nashville Predators received (“two middling prospects and two second-round draft picks”) from the Devils last summer was indicative of Subban’s declining value. In reality, that trade was a straightforward salary dump by the Predators, freeing up cap dollars to sign Matt Duchene. That’s why the Devils didn’t have to give up very much to get Subban. Nevertheless, his play this season certainly hasn’t bolstered his stock.
The Penguins spoiled Phil Kessel’s return to Pittsburgh by blanking Kessel and his Arizona Coyotes’ teammates 2-0. Tristan Jarry kicked out 33 shots for his second straight shutout.
Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist as his Edmonton Oilers edged the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Draisaitl (53 points) holds a one-point lead over teammate Connor McDavid atop the league scoring race. Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen turned aside 35 shots. With the Coyotes falling to the Penguins, the Oilers regained first place in the Pacific Division.
Washington Capitals winger Jakub Vrana tallied the game-winning goal and collected an assist in a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan Getzlaf collected two points in a losing cause. The league-leading Capitals have won six in a row.
A late goal by Nate Thompson lifted the Montreal Canadiens over the New York Rangers 2-1. Habs goalie Carey Price made 29 saves for the win. The Canadiens played without center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who suffered a concussion in Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette denied allegations of abusive behavior leveled at him by former player Daniel Carcillo when they were with the Philadelphia Flyers. “First was a suggestion by (Carcillo) that I used my position of power inside of a locker room to bully or … challenge players to go out there and fight,” Laviolette said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Laviolette also responded to a video clip making the rounds on social media showing him apparently punching forward Ville Leino in the back of the head during a game in 2011.
“I had called a timeout. I was trying to get my team motivated and I went to punch my fist into my hand. I nicked the back of his helmet. By no means was it meant as any physical abuse nor have I ever had any physical abuse with a player. … If people really thought I was punching somebody in the back of the head, then that would have come forward a long time ago.”
Leino defended Laviolette, saying he didn’t believe the coach intentionally struck him. “There are a lot of emotions in the game. Coaches get fired up and thing happen,” Leino told ESPN. “I don’t think Peter tried to hit me, and it looks worse than it was.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Flyers Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell also defended Laviolette, as did current Predators forward Austin Watson. While time will tell if Carcillo’s accusation against Laviolette holds up, that video clip inspired a rush to judgment on social media before all the facts were in. And speaking of rushing to judgment…
SPORTSNET: Nikita Zaitsev’s agent released a statement disputing claims by his ex-wife that he’s taken their children and she doesn’t know about their whereabouts.
“The story that is being circulated online by the ex-wife of my client Nikita Zaitsev is not accurate,” Dan Milstein wrote. “Nikita’s children are safe and with his parents, at his parents’ home in Moscow, where they normally reside. Nikita’s ex-wife knows where the children are and that they are safe. Law enforcement considers this to be a private matter. We ask that you please respect the family’s privacy.”
CBS SPORTS: The Columbus Blue Jackets placed defenseman Zach Werenski (shoulder) on injured reserve.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu is on IR with a lower-body injury.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs placed Andreas Johnsson (leg) on IR until at least Christmas.
Details of several anticipated free-agent signings leaked, Zaitsev-for-Ceci trade expected today, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
The NHL’s free-agent period begins at 12:01 PM ET today. However, details leaked last night regarding new contracts for several noteworthy unrestricted free agents. Here’s a summary of what was reported:
Matt Duchene is expected to sign a seven-year, $56-million contract with the Nashville Predators
Joe Pavelski will sign a three-year, $21-million deal with the Dallas Stars. They’ve also signed Corey Perry to a one-year, bonus-laden contract with a base salary of $1.5 million.
Mats Zuccarello is heading to the Minnesota Wild. His contract is expected to be for five years and worth $6 million annually.
Richard Panik is joining the Washington Capitals on a four-year deal believed to be worth over $2.5 million per season.
Cam Talbot returns to Alberta with the Calgary Flames. The former Edmonton Oilers goaltender will sign a one-year, $2.75-million deal.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev has waived his no-trade clause, setting the stage to ship him to the Ottawa Senators for blueliner Cody Ceci. Winger Connor Brown will also be heading to Ottawa. Other players and/or draft picks will also be part of this swap. The trade is expected to be finalized later today after the Leafs pay Zaitsev his $3 million signing bonus.
**UPDATE** As per Cap Friendly:
To Ottawa #Senators:
D Nikita Zaitsev
F Connor Brown
F Michael Carcone (RFA)
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) July 1, 2019
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas deserves kudos for finding a taker for Zaitsev and his $4.5 million AAV through 2023-24. No surprise, however, that he had to include a sweetener (Brown) in the deal.
Ceci, 25, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was qualified at $4.6 million for 2019-20. He was said to be seeking a five-year deal worth between $5 – $5.5 million per season. It remains to be seen if the Leafs will pay that much, take him to arbitration, or flip him to another club. I think he’s marginally better than Zaitsev but maybe his performance will improve with the Leafs. If the Leafs re-sign Ceci, they’ll still need replacements for Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey. Both are unrestricted free agents.
Zaitsev could also benefit from a change of scenery. Senators head coach D.J. Smith reportedly vouched for the blueliner, having worked with him when Smith was an assistant coach with the Leafs. Getting the versatile Brown in the deal is a nice boost to the Senators forward depth.
In other Leafs and Senators news, Toronto plans to sign winger Kenny Agostino to a two-year, one-way contract. The Senators, meanwhile, hired former St. Louis Blues coach David Payne as an assistant coach.
The Leafs have a tentative deal to send Nikita Zaitsev to the Senators. Check out the details, plus the latest on Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Sebastian Aho, and more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
ZAITSEV FOR CECI?
TSN: Bob McKenzie reported the Toronto Maple Leafs could have a tentative deal in place shipping Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators for Cody Ceci. This trade won’t be finalized until July 1 when the Leafs pay Zaitsev his $3-million signing bonus.
McKenzie adds there could be other pieces in this deal. The Leafs could include a “sweetener” like a player (Connor Brown?) or a draft pick. Zaitsev, 27, has five years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.5 million. Ceci, 25, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan adds Zaitsev has agreed to waive his modified no-trade clause, which kicks in tomorrow, to go to Ottawa. Senators head coach D.J. Smith, a former Leafs assistant coach, got involved to help facilitate the deal.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports this move is an indication Ceci and the Senators aren’t on the same page in contract talks. It’s believed Ceci, who earned $4.5 million on a one-year contract this season, seeks a five- or six-year deal worth between $5 – $5.5 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, the Leafs will honor Zaitsev’s trade request and move out his troublesome contract. On the other hand, they’ll have to re-sign Ceci, who’ll cost more for longer than Zaitsev. It’s interesting that Smith got involved to make this happen. He seems to see more in Zaitsev’s game than the blueliner’s critics.
Ceci’s faced considerable criticism from Senators fans for his defensive miscues. However, maybe a move to Toronto could benefit his play. The Leafs could flip Ceci to another club. Given their blueline needs, however, I think they’ll try to keep him.
If Ceci’s seeking up to $5.5 million annually, it could complicate the Leafs’ efforts to re-sign Mitch Marner. It’ll also hinder efforts to land a suitable replacement for Jake Gardiner and perhaps Ron Hainsey.
LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE AND PANARIN
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater recently reported a source close to Artemi Panarin said the Colorado Avalanche continued to have serious interest in the 27-year-old left winger. The source also claimed the club met with Panarin personally this week. Dater acknowledged Panarin’s trips this week to the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to regular reader “Shawn” for the link. It’s worth noting Dater wrote this before the Avalanche acquired Andre Burakovsky on Friday from Washington. While he doesn’t think that move takes them out of the running for Panarin, “the optics aren’t good.” He also noted the Avs are among the suitors for winger Joonas Donskoi. If so, I think that takes them further out of the Panarin sweepstakes.
UPDATE ON THE PREDATORS AND DUCHENE
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Montreal Canadiens could still have a shot at signing Matt Duchene. While it’s assumed Duchene will land with the Nashville Predators, Friedman said more than one source indicates that’s not locked in. Whatever happens, Friedman suspects the Predators will make a major move via trade or free agency. He also linked the Predators to Anders Lee.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last weekend’s trade of P.K. Subban to New Jersey was done to free up cap space to add a scoring forward. If the Predators miss out on Duchene I can see them pursuing someone like Lee. I don’t think they’re in the bidding for Panarin as he’d be way out of their price range.
HURRICANES PLAYING HARDBALL WITH AHO?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon intends to play hardball with Sebastian Aho. The 21-year-old center is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Hurricanes, to Brooks’ knowledge, haven’t indicated that they wouldn’t match an offer sheet for Aho. The pundit suggests it would be interesting to find out if they would.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s John Shannon recently reported the Hurricanes are talking an eight-year deal for Aho worth $6 million per season. Of course, that could simply be their opening bid. Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said he didn’t think the two sides were that far apart. He also expressed confidence a deal will be reached before training camp in September.
Waddell also indicated he’s not concerned about Aho receiving an offer sheet. I can see the two sides agreeing to a long-term deal worth around $8 million per season. Given Aho’s upside, he’ll be worth more than that in a few years.
UPDATE ON PAVELSKI
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Ali Thanawalla cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting Joe Pavelski has initiated contract talks with the Dallas Stars. He met with the club earlier in the week. He also noted The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported Pavelski decided not to meet with the Minnesota Wild. Meanwhile, Russo’s colleague Aaron Portzline reported the Columbus Blue Jackets were among the clubs Pavelski politely declined to visit this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, Pavelski is making the Stars his top destination when the UFA market opens tomorrow. Of course, another club could swoop in at the last minute with a better offer. Stay tuned.
As for the Wild, The Athletic’s Michael Russo cites sources claiming they’re “aggressively pursuing” winger Mats Zuccarello. They’re prepared to offer him a long-term contract. Russo speculates it could be a five-year deal worth up to $6 million per season. I like Zuccarello but that’s too much for too long for a winger who turns 32 in September.
RISTOLAINEN TRADE RUMORS PERSIST
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington believes the Sabres’ recent acquisition of defenseman Colin Miller means Rasmus Ristolainen will be traded soon. He cites Sabres GM Jason Botterill speaking of the options it gives his club on the blueline and “flexibility within their lineup”.
Ristolainen’s been the subject of trade speculation for weeks. While Botterill attempted to downplay the rumors, Harrington noted the Sabres GM also didn’t deny them. He points out the Sabres need for offense, suggesting Ristolainen would be the best trade chip to address that requirement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t rule out a Ristolainen trade this summer. However, as TSN’s Darren Dreger observed, a team must “step up” in a big way or the Sabres won’t part with him. In other words, it’ll take a top-six forward to pry Ristolainen away from the Sabres.
Hearing that Montreal among the three teams showing interest in veteran UFA goalie Curtis McElhinney. Don’t believe Toronto is one of them.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 30, 2019
Those wondering if Flames management is of the belief the team needs more size and toughness, I can report to you that last July 1 the team believed it had an agreement w UFA Ryan Reaves before the rugged winger chose to re-sign w Vegas. The desire to add muscle hasn’t changed.
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) June 28, 2019
The latest Penguins, Leafs and Golden Knights trade speculation plus updates on Artemi Panarin, Robin Lehner, Joe Pavelski, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PENGUINS STILL SHOPPING KESSEL?
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe cites sources within the Pittsburgh Penguins organization claiming general manager Jim Rutherford is still talking trade with other clubs. Rutherford wants to change the culture of his club, shed some salary, and bring in a younger, faster player or two that can have an immediate impact.
Yohe believes Rutherford is still trying to trade Phil Kessel. Earlier this month, the 32-year-old winger used his no-trade clause to squash a deal that would’ve sent him to the Minnesota Wild.
Contrary to recent rumors, the Penguins won’t pursue veteran wingers Corey Perry and Wayne Simmonds via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford’s said he’s comfortable with Kessel returning to the lineup this fall. Nevertheless, Yohe joins several Pittsburgh pundits who believe he’s still trying to move the winger. Cap Friendly indicates Kessel has an eight-team trade list, which complicates Rutherford’s efforts.
I never understood the logic behind those rumors linking Perry and Simmonds to the Penguins. It’s obvious Rutherford wants his club to get younger and faster. Those two won’t address those needs.
UPDATE ON THE MAPLE LEAFS AND GOLDEN KNIGHTS
TSN: Frank Seravalli notes the Toronto Maple Leafs need to shed salary places defenseman Nikita Zaitsev sits atop the latest update of his NHL “trade bait” list. The high cost of re-signing restricted free agent Mitch Marner makes it necessary to try and move Zaitsev’s $4.5-million annual salary-cap hit. Seravalli believes it’ll take packaging Zaitsev with a “sweetener” to get it done.
The Vegas Golden Knights are already sitting above the $81.5-million salary cap and must shed salary. Defenseman Colin Miller and forward Ryan Reaves are possible trade candidates.
LATEST NOTEWORTHY UFA UPDATES
THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites The Athletic’s Arthur Staple claiming a league source suggest Robin Lehner’s days with the New York Islanders could be drawing to a close. The two sides are believed far apart in contract talks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would explain why the Islanders met with Sergei Bobrovsky earlier this week. However, the cost of signing Bobrovsky would be much higher than re-signing Lehner.
TSN: Darren Dreger reported left-winger Artemi Panarin met with the New York Rangers yesterday.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild have inquired about Anders Lee. They also have “serious interest” in Joe Pavelski and Wayne Simmonds.
Gold-Smith also noted The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline tweeting winger Mats Zuccarello seeks a five-year contract.
TSN: Ryan Rishaug reports it sounds like the Calgary Flames are among several teams interested in winger Patrick Maroon.
Thomas Vanek’s camp is talking with other teams and have been informed there’s probably not a fit between him and Detroit for this year.
— Max Bultman (@m_bultman) June 27, 2019