What Next For the New York Rangers?
Should the Rangers pursue Jack Eichel or Matthew Tkachuk? What the latest speculation on the Flames and Sharks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ESPN: Emily Kaplan believes the New York Rangers will be mentioned as front-runners for Jack Eichel if the Buffalo Sabres shop their captain in the offseason. His agents are the same ones who represented Rangers general manager Chris Drury during his playing days.
They could find a way to fit Eichel’s $10 million annual cap hit through 2025-26 into their cap payroll. However, Kaplan feels a bigger priority is figuring out how to re-sign center Mika Zibanejad.
THE ATHLETIC: Rick Carpiniello doesn’t believe it would be worth the cost for the Rangers to acquire a center like Eichel when he’s not much better than Zibanejad right now. Pursuing an upgrade over second-line center Ryan Strome would be a better option. He recommends targeting an “Aleksander Barkov type” – slated for unrestricted free agent status next summer and possibly available at next season’s trade deadline.
Adding a tough forward comparable to the Tkachuk brothers in Calgary and Ottawa or Washington’s Tom Wilson should be the Rangers’ priority. It could mean sacrificing a top-six forward or two to address that need.
Brooks considers Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere and perhaps Ryan Lindgren as untouchable. The Rangers would be reluctant to part with Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller but they’ll have to trade someone they don’t want to sacrifice to land a transformational top-six forward. A package containing a permutation of Filip Chytil, Pavel Buchnevich, Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Nils Lundkvist and future first-rounders probably won’t get it done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trading for Eichel would be a bold move for the Rangers and one team CEO James Dolan would probably approve. However, his cap hit would be expensive while meeting the Sabres’ asking price could hurt the Rangers’ overall roster depth. It’ll also make it very difficult to re-sign Zibanejad.
Tkachuk would provide that physical boost among the Rangers’ top-six. That being said, the factors that make him attractive to the Blueshirts also make him valuable to the Flames.
Finding a Barkov-type by next year’s trade deadline won’t be easy. Barkov himself could be re-signed by the Panthers this summer following their strong performance this season. Sean Couturier would be the best fit but I don’t see the Philadelphia Flyers parting ways with him.
Patrice Bergeron falls into that category but he’ll turn 36 in July and should finish his career as a Bruin. Nazem Kadri could also fall into that category but the Avs won’t move him if they’re still among the Cup contenders.
Some are convinced the 27-year-old Gaudreau could depart next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Trading one of their leading scorers, however, would also force the Flames to go shopping for his replacement.
The Flames could have little choice but to leave Giordano exposed in this summer’s expansion draft. The team captain turns 38 later this year and has a year remaining on his contract. Gilbertson wonders if they should swing a side deal with the Seattle Kraken to convince them to take another player.
GM Brad Treliving will be on the hot seat after seven seasons and five head coaches. However, his future could be tied to recently-hired head coach Darryl Sutter. They both have two years left on their contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’ve been growing calls among Calgary fans and pundits to move Gaudreau. This team needs a shakeup after two disappointing seasons. Trading Gaudreau could be part of that plan unless there are talks afoot about a contract extension. If they trade him they must find someone via trade or free agency to replace his production.
As for Giordano, the Kraken could be reluctant to select an aging defenseman who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. It’ll be interesting to see how the Flames handle this situation.
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reports San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson acknowledged his club’s depth in goal and finding a third-lie center must be addressed. He said he’s willing to explore all options. That could include talks with teams to make players available, either with the Seattle Kraken or other clubs in a different position than the Sharks at the expansion draft.
Kurz speculates the Sharks could buy out the remaining three years of goalie Martin Jones’ contract. That would save the Sharks $3.8 million next season, $3.3 million in 2022-23 and $2.8 million in 2023-24 before getting dinged with $1.67 million annually against their cap over the final three years of the six-year buyout period.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus White believes Tomas Hertl’s future with the Sharks should also be among their priorities. The 27-year-old forward is eligible next summer for UFA status. He recommends re-signing him this summer or trading him by the draft. He also feels they should consider exposing high-salaried players such as Jones, Evander Kane and Brent Burns in the hope the Kraken selects one of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a well-deserved reputation as a savvy wheeler-dealer. However, this offseason could be the biggest test of his long career as the Sharks GM. They’ve got too many aging players carrying hefty contracts that could prove too difficult to move without absorbing some salary and/or packaging them with sweeteners (draft picks, prospects) they can’t afford to give up.
Judging by Wilson’s comments, he’s mapped out his plans for the offseason and seems confident that he has sufficient options to address his needs. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out what they are and if he can pull it off. His job could depend on it.
North Division playoff matchups set plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Mika Zibanejad and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Connor Hellebucyk turned in a 24-save shutout and Blake Wheeler collected four points as the Winnipeg Jets blanked the Vancouver Canucks 5-0. With the win, the Jets secured third place in the Scotia North Division and will face the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round of the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the other North Division first-round series.
The Washington Capitals nipped the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Michael Raffl’s goal in the dying seconds of the third period. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin returned to action for the first time since May 3 after being sidelined by a lower-body injury. With 24 goals, it’s the first time Ovechkin hasn’t reached the 30-goal plateau in his NHL career. The next time the Capitals and Bruins face off will be Saturday in Game 1 of their opening-round series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin missed 11 games this season. Had he been healthy he would’ve reached 30 goals. With 730 career goals, he’s one shy of Marcel Dionne for fifth place on the all-time goals leader list.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane admitted he’s been dealing with an injury that nagged him since before last year’s playoffs. Kane didn’t reveal details but said he’s trying to figure it out and hopes it’s nothing serious. He doesn’t expect it to interfere with his offseason training but has been advised to take a little more time off the ice.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a lower-body or core-muscle injury. While Kane did take time away from practices for maintenance days down the stretch, he finished with a team-leading 66 points in 56 games.
THE SCORE: Speaking of the Blackhawks, they signed forward Henrik Borgstrom to a two-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. PuckPedia reports it’s worth an annual average value of $1 million.
NBC SPORTS: New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad admitted he struggled to regain his form following his bout with COVID-19 at the start of this season. He tallied just three goals in his first 27 games but rallied in the second half with 21 goals in the final 29 games. Zibanejad finished the season with 50 points.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: David McNab is stepping down as the Anaheim Ducks’ senior vice-president of hockey operations.
Is an offseason shakeup in store for the Rangers? Is Alec Martinez any closer to re-signing with the Golden Knights? What’s the latest on Rod Brind’Amour’s contract talks with the Hurricanes? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently suggested the Rangers could face an offseason shakeup following Thursday’s season-crushing 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. He singled out marquee players such as Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad as well as the leadership group and head coach David Quinn.
Brooks pointed out the lack of production from the Rangers’ core players (Panarin, Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome) against the Isles throughout this season, combining for just one goal against their rival. He feels the Rangers lack the mentality and personnel to adjust against a tight-checking opponent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks wasn’t as harsh in his assessment of the Rangers’ 3-0 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, perhaps because, as he pointed out, that loss felt inevitable. He did, however, suggest the Rangers lacked the physical presence to deal with rugged Islanders winger Matt Martin. He noted the Blueshirts attempted to sign Martin during the offseason before he returned to the Isles on a four-year deal.
The Rangers could make some offseason changes, perhaps behind the bench as well as in the lineup. There’s no shortage of former NHL coaches who’d relish the opportunity of coaching the promising Blueshirts. Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien and Bruce Boudreau could be among the potential candidates.
As for the roster, Cap Friendly shows the Rangers have $55.6 million invested in 17 players for 2021-22. Buchnevich and goaltender Igor Shesterkin are their notable free agents, with both being RFAs holding arbitration rights. Filip Chytil, Brett Howden, Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek are coming off their entry-level contracts.
The Blueshirts have sufficient cap space to re-sign their key free agents and perhaps have some space to tap into the UFA market to add some toughness to their lineup. They could, however, forego an expensive signing by going the trade route.
Zibanejad and Strome are one year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. Their names popped up in trade speculation in the recent past and could surface in the offseason if management decides core changes are needed.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: David Schoen recently reported there haven’t been any contract talks between the Vegas Golden Knights and Alec Martinez. The 33-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Martinez is hopeful this season won’t be his last with the Golden Knights. He has 27 points on the season and averages over 22 minutes per game. General manager Kelly McCrimmon acknowledged the blueliner’s value to the lineup, adding talks will happen when appropriate and declined to comment further.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Martinez is completing a six-year, $24 million contract and turns 34 in July. His age will work against him getting a significant raise. So will the Golden Knights’ limited cap space. They have $75.4 million invested in 17 players next season. He’ll have to accept at least the same annual cap hit on a short-term deal to stay in Vegas, and only if they can free up some cap room.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports one of the biggest issues in the Carolina Hurricanes contract negotiations with head coach Rod Brind’Amour is he wants contract extensions for his coaching, training and equipment staffs. Like Brind’Amour, their respective contracts expire at the end of this season.
Friedman believed Brind’Amour will re-sign with the Hurricanes. However, he’s made it clear the future of his staff is as important as his own.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brind’Amour was a team guy during his playing days. That attitude has carried over into his coaching career. Given the success he’s had turning the Hurricanes within three years from an also-ran to a Stanley Cup contender, he’s justified in wanting to keep his staff intact.
The Penguins move into first place in the East, Mika Zibanejad helps the Rangers keep their playoff hopes alive, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Jake Guentzel scored the only goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins blanked the Boston Bruins 1-0. Tristan Jarry kicked out 30 shots for the shutout as the Penguins took over first place in the MassMutual East Division with 67 points, one up on the Washington Capitals. The Bruins, meanwhile, are in fourth place with 60 points.
A hat trick by Mika Zibanejad carried the New York Rangers over the Buffalo Sabres 6-3. Kaapo Kakko scored twice and Adam Fox collected three assists as the Rangers sit four points back of the Bruins in fifth place.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are hanging in there in the East but the Bruins have two games in hand.
Victor Hedman’s overtime goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brayden Point collected three assists and Ondrej Palat had a goal and two assists for the Lightning (66 points), who move within one point of the second-place Florida Panthers in the Discover Central Division. Eric Robinson scored twice for the Jackets.
The Philadelphia Flyers edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on a shootout goal by Kevin Hayes. Claude Giroux scored twice in the third period to tie the game. The Flyers played without defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere as he’s sidelined 7-10 days with a sprained knee. The Devils are winless (0-9-1) in their last 10 games.
NBC SPORTS: Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle moved into second place on the NHL’s Ironman list after playing his 915th career game on Saturday. Doug Jarvis is the leader with 964 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yandle has 7 more regular-season games remaining this season. After that, he’ll need 43 games next season to break Jarvis’ record.
NESN: David Backes spoke about retirement being a probability. The 36-year-old Anaheim Ducks winger’s contract expires at the end of this season. He’s in the midst of his 15th season, with four points in 14 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backes was a strong two-way forward in his prime with seven 40-plus point seasons on his resume. The first 10 years of his career were his best, all with the St. Louis Blues. Age and injuries, however, caught up with Backes in recent years.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed defenseman Riley Stillman to a three-year contract with an annual average value of $1.35 million. He was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers earlier this month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stillman, 23, is a physical defenseman who struggled to crack the Panthers’ blueline. The Blackhawks, however, are impressed enough with his play thus far to make an affordable investment in his future. His new contract won’t break the bank for the Hawks, who have $73.4 million invested in 19 players for 2021-22 (stick tap to Cap Friendly). They’ll get cap relief if needed with Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million) on permanent long-term injury reserve.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Artem Anisimov was nearly pressed into service as an emergency goaltender during their game on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks after Anton Forsberg and Matt Murray were sidelined by injuries. Marcus Hogberg finished the game for the Senators.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Former Canadien Gilles Lupien has been given only five months to live in his battle with intestinal cancer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Lupien and his family. He spent five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Hartford Whalers from 1977-78 to 1981-82, winning two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens. He became a player agent, representing such notables as Roberto Luongo, Corey Crawford and Sean Couturier.
Mika Zibanejad lights up the Flyers again, Sidney Crosby reaches another career milestone, the Canadian government will reportedly loosen quarantine rules for players, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Anthony Beauvillier lifted the New York Islanders over the Boston Bruins 4-3. The Isles overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead until Boston’s Anders Bjork tied it late in the third. Beauvillier finished with two points while teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a goal and two assists. Bruins backup Jaroslav Halak made 17 saves in relief of Tuukka Rask, who left the game following the first period with an upper-body injury. With 48 points, the Islanders hold a two-point lead over the Washington Capitals for first place in the MassMutual East Division. The Bruins (37 points) hold a three-point lead over the New York Rangers for fourth place.
Mika Zibanejad enjoyed a six-point game, including a natural hat trick, as the Rangers thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 8-3. Zibanejad set an NHL record with consecutive six-point performances against the same opponent. Adam Fox collected five assists, Ryan Strome had a goal and three assists and Pavel Buchnevich scored twice. The Rangers (34 points) surged past the Flyers into fifth place in the MassMutual East Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carter Hart was shelled for five goals before getting the hook from the Flyers net. The 22-year-old goaltender looks nothing like last season’s promising starter when he out-dueled Montreal’s Carey Price in the playoffs. His confidence is completely shot and he hasn’t received much help from his defense. The Rangers, meanwhile, have played their way into the playoff race in the East Division, though the Bruins have three games in hand.
The Washington Capitals picked up their eighth win in their last nine contests by edging the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied twice while Alex Ovechkin scored his 721st career goal. The Capitals (46 points) hold a two-point lead over the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Division.
Sebastian Aho’s overtime goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton extended his assist streak to 13 games while Blue Jackets rearguard Seth Jones collected three helpers. The Hurricanes (47 points) sit three points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Discover Central Division while the Blue Jackets (34 points) are three back of the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs nipped the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on an overtime goal by Justin Holl. Senators netminder Anton Forsberg made 38 saves in his first start in a year. The Leafs (44 points) move into sole possession of first place in the Scotia North Division, two points up on the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers.
Sidney Crosby collected three assists to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Buffalo Sabres 4-0, handing the latter their 16th straight defeat. Crosby became the eighth-fastest player to reach 1,300 career points. Casey DeSmith kicked out 36 shots for the shutout while rookie Radim Zohorna’s first NHL goal proved to be the game-winner. Before the game, the Penguins announced winger Kasperi Kapanen is sidelined week-to-week with an undisclosed injury. With 44 points, the Penguins sit in third place in the East Division. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams took over his club’s coaching duties after interim head coach Don Granato and assistant Matt Ellis went onto the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list two hours before game time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What happened to Granato and Ellis is just the latest blow in a season that represents the nadir of a decade of suck for the once-proud Sabres.
A 37-save shutout by Cam Talbot carried the Minnesota Wild to a 2-0 blanking of the St. Louis Blues. Marcus Johansson and Kirill Kaprizov were the goal scorers as the Wild (43 points) picked up their 11th straight home win and sit two points behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche in the Honda West Division. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba returned to action after missing three games with a lower-body injury. The fourth-place Blues (37 points) sits six points back of the Wild.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankinen kicked out 41 shots in a 3-0 shutout of the Florida Panthers. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks (37 points), who hold a three-point lead over the Blue Jackets for fourth in the Central Division. Panthers winger Patric Hornqvist left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury following a hard hit by Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov. He’s listed as day-to-day as the Panthers (44 points) sit three points behind the second-place Hurricanes in the Central.
The Colorado Avalanche scored five unanswered goals in a 5-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar each had a goal and an assist as the Avalanche moved into a tie with the first-place Golden Knights (45 points), though the latter holds a game in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche have won eight of their last 10 and picked up points in all but one of those games.
A late third-period goal by Roope Hintz lifted the Dallas Stars over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. Hintz and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and two assists. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy saw his winning streak end at 12 games. The Bolts remain atop the NHL’s overall standings with 50 points.
The Nashville Predators moved to within four points of the fourth-place Blackhawks in the Central Division by crushing the Detroit Red Wings 7-1. Rocco Grimaldi scored four goals, including three in a span of 2:34 as the Predators have won five of their last six contests.
TSN: The Canadian government is reportedly poised to approve reducing the 14-day quarantine on NHL players crossing the border from the United States into Canada to seven days.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This would allow the Canadian general managers who could be buyers more time to make moves in the days leading up to the April 12 trade deadline. Under the 14-day quarantine, a player acquired by a Canadian team acquired at the April 12 trade deadline would be unable to join the roster until April 27. A seven-day quarantine means they can join the roster more quickly.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said one of his two players on their COVID-19 protocol list tested positive for one of the coronavirus variants. He wouldn’t say who the player was but indicated he was feeling ok. No other Habs have tested positive. The Canadiens had four games postponed by the league but could return to action early next week. Bergevin also suggested his club’s season could last a little longer to make up those games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The regular season is slated to end on May 8 and the playoffs begin on May 11. The Habs could play on May 9 and 10, or the league could extend the start date of the playoffs by a couple of days to accommodate teams with postponed games to be played.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Four Anaheim Ducks players (Danton Heinen, Ben Hutton, Jacob Larsson and Anthony Stolarz) are off the COVID-19 protocol list due to false-positive tests. Alexander Volkov goes on the list for seven days as per league protocols for traded players.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom underwent successful shoulder surgery on Thursday and is on track to return to action next season.
CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes forward Tyler Pitlick was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.