Laine, Marchessault, Perry Featured in NHL Rumor Roundup
The latest on the Leafs, Jets, and Devils in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE MAPLE LEAFS PURSUE MORE LTIR CONTRACTS?
TSN: Frank Seravalli expects the Toronto Maple Leafs to acquire more players on long-term injury reserve. Under the NHL CBA, a player under a contract whose career is cut short by injury but doesn’t retire can be placed on LTIR. That allows a team sitting at the cap maximum to exceed it by an amount equal to the player’s annual average value.
The Leafs previously acquired the contracts of all-but-retired players like Nathan Horton and David Clarkson to give themselves more salary-cap wiggle room. With both players coming off the books at the end of this season, Seravalli believes Leafs management will be on the hunt for more LTIR contracts.
His suggested targets include Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, Ottawa’s Marian Gaborik, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, Arizona’s Marian Hossa, and Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. Others could include Vancouver’s Micheal Ferland and Chicago’s Andrew Shaw.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman doubts the Leafs are eager to go the LTIR route again. “They knew they were starting last year without Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman. It wasn’t an easy dance for them — or Vegas — last season.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I anticipate this loophole could be closed in the next collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, there’s nothing within the CBA preventing the Leafs (or anyone else) from doing this again. Several LTIR contracts (including those of Gaborik and Hossa) were traded in recent years to cap-strapped clubs seeking some payroll flexibility. Bear in mind it remains to be seen if Kesler, Seabrook, Ferland, and Shaw become permanent LTIR players. They haven’t ruled out returning to play next season.
Friedman raises a good point about the difficulty the Leafs faced to pull this off this season. It could become more complicated if their roster starts next season healthier than they were at the start of 2019-20.
BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS FOR THE JETS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Ken Wiebe examined some backup goaltending targets for the Winnipeg Jets if they don’t re-sign pending free agent Laurent Brossoit. Trade targets could include St. Louis’ Jake Allen and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, while the UFA market includes the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss and San Jose’s Aaron Dell. New Jersey’s Cory Schneider could be a long-shot option if the Devils buy out the final two years of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues could move Allen in a cost-cutting deal to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo, but they won’t just give him away. Their asking price could be a good, young, affordable NHLer.
Dubnyk has a modified no-trade clause containing 19 preferred trade destinations. There’s no certainty the Jets would be on it.
In addition to Greiss and Dell, Cam Talbot and Anton Khudobin are also potentially available. All but Dell, however, could cost over $3 million annually each.
LATEST DEVILS SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked if the New Jersey Devils might go after a big-name free agent like St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo. While acknowledging the possibility, he considers the odds slim, suggesting it might not make sense to pay Pietrangelo huge money for a couple of seasons before the Devils are ready to become playoff contenders. He advocates pursuing a younger top-pairing blueliner in a trade.
Asked if the Devils could shop one of their three first-round picks in this year’s draft, Masisak thinks it’s too early to tell. “I don’t think they would consider trading the Arizona pick or the Vancouver pick until we know if it’s being transferred in 2020 or is an unprotected 2021 choice,” he said. “The value of those picks changes depending on that information.”
Check out the latest Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
FRICTION BETWEEN DUBAS AND BABCOCK?
TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos and Steve Simmons noted recent comments by Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock aimed at general manager Kyle Dubas regarding the club’s perceived lack of roster depth. Babcock was unhappy over management not addressing the issue at the trade deadline, which has been exacerbated by recent injuries to defensemen Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott. He’s also been critical of the roster’s lack of physicality and its goaltending depth.
Traikos speculates Babcock may be “planting the seeds” if the Leafs should suffer another first-round playoff exit. However, he also pointed out the Leafs core players – John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Frederik Andersen – are healthy and playing well for the most part. Meanwhile, the team ahead of them in the standings, the Boston Bruins, lost four key players at times this season to injuries (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy) and haven’t missed a beat.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both pundits also suggest the rumors of discord between Babcock and Dubas will disappear if the Leafs start winning. Both believe the Leafs’ woes are collective and not confined to one area, but I maintain defense remains their primary concern.
That blueline weakness, especially on the right side, was apparent last season but seemingly ignored by management. Instead, they put themselves into potential salary-cap jeopardy this summer by signing a player they didn’t need in center John Tavares last July to a massive contract.
Tavares is a superstar forward but his addition did nothing to improve the Leafs’ defense. I don’t know how much input Babcock had in that decision, but if he was okay with it he deserves his share of the blame.
OFFSEASON KEYS FOR THE SENATORS
ESPN.COM: Finding the right coach and weaponizing their salary-cap space should be priorities for the Ottawa Senators this summer. Regarding the latter, they would be perfectly positioned to take on contracts from cap-strapped clubs that also include draft picks and prospects as part of the return. Some of those players might have no-trade clauses, such as Edmonton’s Milan Lucic, but perhaps they’d waive them for the opportunity to play big minutes again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Senators have nearly $45 million invested in 13 players for 2019-20. Apart from restricted free agent Cody Ceci, their other free agents would be affordable re-signings. That would still leave them plenty of room to take on an expensive contract packaged with picks and prospects from a club looking to shed salary.
I doubt they’ll consider doing that for a player like Lucic, who has more than two years remaining on his contract. A better option could be someone like Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer, who’s got two years left on his deal with a cap hit of $3.4 million. He also lacks no-trade protection.
Another option would be acquiring the rights of an all-but-retired player whose career has been ended by injuries. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen would fit the bill.
Game recaps, three stars and the top rookie for October revealed, and much more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrick Laine’s hat trick in his native Finland powered the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at the NHL 2018 Global Series at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. Panthers center and fellow Finn Aleksander Barkov picked up an assist. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves. Earlier in the day, the Panthers activated Roberto Luongo (knee) from injured reserve and it’s expected he could return to action next week.
Anton Khudobin made 30 saves as the Dallas Stars held on for a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Stars forward Tyler Seguin collected two assists.
Thomas Greiss made 29 saves, including a well-timed poke-check on Sidney Crosby in overtime, to give the New York Islanders a 3-2 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, sweeping their home-and-home series. Josh Bailey tallied the only goal in the shootout.
Montreal Canadiens rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored his first two NHL goals in his club’s 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. The Habs final two goals set a record for the fastest in league history (two seconds). Brendan Gallagher also scored twice for the Canadiens. Capitals forwards Alexander Ovechkin and Lars Eller also each tallied two goals.
Craig Anderson kicked out 46 shots as the Ottawa Senators doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. Sabres winger Jason Pominville skated in his 1,000th career NHL game.
The Detroit Red Wings picked up their third straight victory by edging the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Justin Abdelkader and Trevor Daley each scored shorthanded goals in the third period to give the Wings the win. Speaking of the Wings, former captain Henrik Zetterberg revealed “a degenerating disc eventually caused a nerve problem and a malfunction of a muscle that controls the movement of the ankle” led to his retirement.
In his first game since returning from an undisclosed injury, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne turned aside 42 shots in a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Oskar Sundqvist tallied his first two goals of the season as the St. Louis Blues downed the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 5-3.
The Calgary Flames overcame a 4-1 deficit with five third-period goals to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-5. Mark Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk each had three-point performances for the Flames.
Mikko Koskinen made 40 saves for his first NHL shutout as the Edmonton Oilers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. Drake Caggiula scored twice for the Oilers.
Shootout goals by Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the free-falling Anaheim Ducks, who’ve won just twice in their last 10 games.
The Philadelphia Flyers won their second consecutive game for the first time this season by dropping the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Like the Ducks, the Kings have just two victories in their last 10 contests.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 44 saves, including 25 in the third period, to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane are the NHL’s three stars for October 2018. Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson was named rookie of the month for October.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins forward David Backes is expected to make his return from a concussion Saturday against the Predators. The Bruins also demoted forward Ryan Donato to their AHL affiliate in Providence.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: An unidentified woman has filed a lawsuit against San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane alleging he reneged on a promise to pay for her abortion. Kane and his lawyer deny the allegation and intend to fight it in court.
SPORTSNET: Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov is applying for reinstatement. He’s been suspended since 2015 after pleading guilty on misdemeanor domestic abuse charges and spending nearly two months in jail. The Kings terminated his contract but his NHL rights still belong to them. Voynov’s conviction was dismissed by a judge in July.
CBS SPORTS: The Caroline Hurricanes have sent Phil Dio Giuseppe to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: The Senators have returned rookie Alex Formenton to the OHL’s London Knights.
NBC SPORTS: The NHL plans on playing more games in Europe to expand its footprint on the continent.
Silly Pacioretty debate
Even though the Montreal Canadiens traded Max Pacioretty last week to the Vegas Golden Knights. there’s ongoing debate amongst Habs followers over whether he requested a trade.
At this point, does it really matter anymore? This pointless finger-pointing doesn’t change the fact he now belongs to another club. It won’t change how most Canadiens fans feel about Pacioretty or general manager Marc Bergevin.
Move on, Canadiens fans! You’ve got bigger things to worry about this season.
What next for Yzerman?
Steve Yzerman surprised everyone last Tuesday by stepping down as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He did it for the right reasons, as the constant travel between Tampa Bay and his home in Detroit was took a toll on his family life.
There’s already speculation Yzerman could take over next summer from Ken Holland as GM of the Red Wings. However, Holland’s signed through 2019-20 and Yzerman isn’t about to back-stab his old boss to get that job.
Some suggest Yzerman could be in line for the GM’s role with the expansion Seattle franchise. Given his desire to be closer to home, it’s unlikely he’ll be taking a job on the west coast.
Weirdness in Ottawa
Did anyone in the Ottawa Senators’ front office really believe that weird-ass video featuring defenseman Mark Borowiecki interviewing team owner Eugene Melnyk about the club’s future plans was a good idea? If it was Melnyk’s idea, it certainly says a lot about the unwillingness of his staff to reject his wackier notions.
Melnyk’s got a reputation as an outspoken guy. Over the past year, however, his public statements about the team have raised questions about the caliber of his ability as a franchise owner.
Senators fans are growing fed up with his antics while some pundits are calling for his ouster. They’re questioning the steadiness of the hand on the tiller, even more so since they traded Erik Karlsson last week to San Jose. For my thoughts on that move, follow this link.
No Selke for Zetterberg
Through most of his 15-year NHL career, now-retired Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was among the league’s best two-way forwards.
One reason why he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 was his defensive play. His efforts killing off a five-on-three against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the ’08 Stanley Cup Final became the stuff of lore among Wings fans.
Nevertheless, Zetterberg was never honored with the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. Indeed, the closest he came was finishing third among the finalists in 2008.
To be fair, Zetterberg was in his prime at the same time as such noteworthy two-way forwards as Pavel Datsyuk, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. Still, it’s unfortunate that he was never properly recognized for his efforts.
McQuaid to the Rangers
Overshadowed by the trades of Pacioretty and Karlsson this week, the Boston Bruins shipped defenseman Adam McQuaid on Tuesday to the New York Rangers. Entering his 10th NHL season, this will be his first with a different club.
A big, physical stay-at-home blueliner, the 32-year-old McQuaid was one of the Bruins’ last links to their 2011 Stanley Cup championship roster. However, he was being squeezed out by the Bruins’ depth in promising young rearguards.
McQuaid has one year remaining on his contract and a long injury history. One wonders if the Cornwall, PEI native has a future with the Rangers.
Players to decide if there’s another lockout?
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun recently suggested the potential for a future NHL lockout rests with the players. Seems many team owners are happy for the most part with the current collective bargaining agreement.
The players, meanwhile, aren’t happy about the escrow claw-backs from their salaries. However, the ongoing rise of league revenue and a new franchise expected to open in Seattle within two-to-three years might persuade them not to take the early opt-out from the CBA next September.
Because I cover the NHL for a living, I’m hoping there’s no early end to this CBA. For that matter, I hope both sides to reach an agreement on a new deal before the current one expires in 2022. I’ve had my fill of NHL labor disputes.
Henrik Zetterberg forced to retire plus updates on Corey Crawford, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Jake Dotchin and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: A degenerative back issue has forced Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg to retire. “Zetterberg steps away having played 1,082 games, and having produced 960 points. He has a Stanley Cup title from 2008, the same year he was named playoff MVP. ” He’s been dealing with back pain for several years, undergoing surgery in 2014 to repair an injured disc.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The announcement isn’t really a surprise as the Wings have been hinting for weeks that Zetterberg’s playing days could be over. That doesn’t diminish the sadness over the premature end of his career. It truly is the end of an era. Zetterberg was among the few links to the Wings’ last Stanley Cup championship a decade ago.
Selected 210 overall in the 1999 NHL entry draft, Zetterberg made an immediate impact upon joining the Wings in 2002-03, tallying 22 goals and 44 points in 79 games. A versatile forward who could play center or wing, he established himself among the league’s best two-way players, Even in his final seasons while plagued with a bad back, Zetterberg was still one of the Wings’ best players, tallying 50-or-more points in each of the last four years.
Zetterberg never won the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward and was named a finalist only once, in 2007-08. Nevertheless, he became one of the NHL’s most respected players and was the natural choice to take over as the Wings captain following Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement in 2012. His retirement leaves a huge leadership void for the rebuilding Wings that will be difficult to replace.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford admitted he’s still recuperating from concussion symptoms suffered during last season. Though he’s made progress in his recovery, he said he’s not ready yet to come back and had no timetable for his return. Meanwhile, defenseman Connor Murphy will be sidelined up to eight weeks with a back injury while Brent Seabrook will miss a week with an abdominal injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks’ season hinges on a healthy Crawford between the pipes. They brought in Cam Ward this summer as insurance but he’s no longer considered an elite goaltender. Ward can buy them some time but they need Crawford if they’re to contend for the playoffs.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators confirmed center Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be sidelined a minimum of six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles’ tendon in his right leg.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having watching franchise player Erik Karlsson traded away to San Jose on Thursday, Pageau’s injury is just salt in the wound for Senators fans.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning placed defenseman Jake Dotchin on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract for a material breach. Details weren’t disclosed but it’s believed they were unhappy over Dotchin’s conditioning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Joe Smith reports Dotchin and his agent intend to fight the Lightning’s attempt to terminate his contract. Cap Friendly indicates he’s in the final season of a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $812,500.
SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel will miss training camp owing to a concussion suffered during an informal scrimmage before his arrival in Vancouver.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens have invited winger Joel Ward to training camp on a professional tryout offer.
Jacques Lemaire is officially in the fold as an #Isles special assignment coach.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) September 14, 2018