Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 30, 2021

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 30, 2021

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup: Seth Jones will reportedly test next summer’s free-agent market, the Wild face some big offseason decisions, plus some more Penguins speculation.

JONES TO TEST UFA MARKET PUTS JACKETS IN A TOUGH SPOT

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported Seth Jones recently informed the Columbus Blue Jackets of his intention to test next summer’s unrestricted free agent market. The 26-year-old defenseman has an annual average value of $5.4 million on his contract with a modified no-trade clause.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (NHL Images).

Friedman said he doesn’t want to deal in absolutes but it appears Jones will test free agency “and we’ll see how Columbus decides to handle this over the next little while.”

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Jones and his agent declined to comment. Nevertheless, this is a devasting blow for the Jackets. The blueliner would be the latest among several notable players to depart the organization in recent years via free agency or trades.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen indicated earlier this month he intended to keep Jones into next season without a contract extension in the hope the blueliner would change his mind. With John Davidson returning as team president, Portzline wonders if Kekalainen will attempt to trade Jones this summer.

Trading Jones could lead to a roster rebuild. It would also raise questions over the future of Jones’ defense partner Zach Werenski (a restricted free agent next summer) and Cam Atkinson, who turns 32 next month and might not wish to be part of a rebuild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Portzline believes the Jackets would’ve made Jones their highest-paid player, as well as offering him the captaincy if he agreed to stay. His decision to go to market next year could signal the beginning of the end of the Jackets’ current roster.

The Jackets can’t afford to let him walk next summer for nothing. Kekalainen could wait until the trade deadline to move him but that comes with the risk of an injury to Jones or being forced to accept a lesser deal. It would also create an unnecessary distraction overshadowing their efforts to contend for a playoff spot.

Despite a decline in his performance this season, Jones remains among the NHL’s top defensemen. The Jackets won’t lack for trade partners if they decide to move him this summer, though those suitors will want assurances Jones will sign a contract extension.

If they trade Jones, they must determine Werenski’s future this summer. He has arbitration rights next summer and will be a year away from UFA eligibility. He could end up getting shopped by next summer if he doesn’t want to stick around.

Atkinson, meanwhile, is signed through 2024-25 with an annual average value of $5.875 million and a 10-team no-trade list. Moving him if he wants out would be a little more complicated but not impossible if it comes to that.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE WILD?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski examined the potential offseason plans for the Minnesota Wild following their recent first-round elimination by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Wild GM Bill Guerin faces difficult decisions in July’s expansion draft. Five players (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Mats Zuccarello) have no-movement clauses and must be protected.

If Guerin protects seven forwards he risks losing defenseman Matt Dumba to the Seattle Kraken. Protect eight skaters to protect Dumba and they could lose a forward like Jordan Greenway. He must also decide between exposing veteran goalie Cam Talbot or promising Kaapo Kahkonen. Perhaps Guerin swings a side deal with the Kraken to protect a player.

TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani also weighed in on Guerin’s expansion draft plans. If the Wild GM could convince one of his players with NMCs (such as Suter) to waive their clause, it would allow him to protect Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken could pass on Suter or Parise if they waive their movement clauses. Both are aging veterans with each carrying annual cap hits of over $7.5 million for four more years. It’s no certainty, however, either guy will agree to it.

Wyshynski and Mizutani also wondered what the future holds for Parise, a frequent healthy scratch this season who saw mostly fourth-line duty. A buyout is unlikely because it would put the club in salary-cap hell for the rest of the decade. It could be difficult to find a team willing to acquire the remainder of his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mizutani’s colleague John Shipley believes Parise showed he could still be a contributor for the Wild with two goals and an assist when he finally got back into the roster against the Golden Knights. Finding a suitable role for him on the roster for next season will be challenging if a trade cannot be worked out.

If the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel decide to part ways this summer, Wyshynski suggests the Wild has the depth in promising prospects and young players to make a competitive bid. They have a longstanding need for a top center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, they do, and as long as they don’t sell the whole farm to get Eichel, he could prove a worthwhile addition to their lineup. That’s assuming, of course, he’ll be put on the trade block this summer.

MORE PENGUINS SPECULATION

TRIBLIVE.COM: Mark Madden recently envisioned the Pittsburgh Penguins trading Jake Guentzel for a different type of forward after watching the skillful winger getting battered and bullied in the playoffs. He pointed to when the Penguins traded James Neal for rugged Patric Hornqvist in 2014.

Seth Rorabaugh speculated the Penguins could free up some cap space if they can entice the Seattle Kraken to select someone like Marcus Pettersson ($4.025 million annually) or Jason Zucker ($5.5 million) by offering up a draft pick. They did something similar with Marc-Andre Fleury during the Golden Knights’ expansion draft in 2017.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving Guentzel for a power forward would be a significant move by the Penguins. It would address Brian Burke’s desire to add some skilled toughness and size to their lineup. However, it could also backfire by robbing the Penguins of a significant part of their scoring punch.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 30, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 30, 2021

Patrick Marleau reaches a significant milestone, the Panthers suffer a serious blow with Aaron Ekblad sidelined, the Senators and Kings make a minor deal, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Erik Karlsson scored twice in regulation and the winning goal in a shootout as the San Jose Sharks nipped the Minnesota 4-3. Kevin Fiala and Marcus Johansson each had two points for the Wild (44 points), who sit in third place in the West. Sharks winger Patrick Marleau played his 1,757th NHL game to move past Mark Messier into second place on the all-time games list. Marleau is just 10 games behind leader Gordie Howe with 22 games to play.

San Jose Sharks winger Patrick Marleau (NHL.com).

The Vegas Golden Knights maintained their grip on first place in the Honda West Division with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Robin Lehner made 24 saves for the win and Jonathan Marchessault collected two assists as Vegas (49 points) have won eight of their last 10 games. They hold a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche.

Speaking of the Avalanche, Cale Makar had three assists as they downed the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. Colorado winger Mikko Rantanen tallied his 20th goal of the season. The Avalanche are 9-0-2 in their last 11 contests.

The Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on an overtime goal by Ivan Provorov. Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Provorov each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (38 points), who move within one point of the fourth-place Boston Bruins in the MassMutual East Division. Buffalo’s winless skid is now at 18 games. Sabres forward Dylan Cozens left the game with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those 18 defeats, this one is the cruelest for the Sabres, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

A 19-save performance by Casey DeSmith in relief of Tristan Jarry enabled the Pittsburgh Penguins to hold off the New York Islanders 2-1. DeSmith replaced Jarry after the latter left the game in the first period with an undisclosed injury. Jared McCann scored what proved to be the winning goal for Pittsburgh (48 points), who moved into a tie with the New York Islanders. The Isles, however, holds second place in the East Division on the basis of regulation wins. Penguins winger Jason Zucker returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with a lower-body injury.

An overtime goal by Darnell Nurse gave the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oilers captain Connor McDavid set up Nurse to extend his points streak to 11 games. Toronto center Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 23rd goal while Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist. With 47 points, the Leafs remain atop the Scotia North Division while the Oilers sit two back in third place.

Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers each collected three points as the Winnipeg Jets snuffed out the Calgary Flames 5-1. Scheifele scored twice and Ehlers had three assists. The Jets sit one point behind the Leafs and one ahead of the Oilers in the North Division. The Flames (35 points) remain two points back of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dropping five of their last six games, the Flames have missed a golden opportunity to overtake the idle Canadiens. They sit only two points behind the Habs but the latter have six games in hand after having four games postponed last week by COVID-19 protocols.

HEADLINES

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will be sidelined for 12 weeks following surgery to repair a fractured lower left leg.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing their top defenseman is crushing news for the Panthers, who are jockeying with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Discover Central Division. It could force general manager Bill Zito into the trade market for help.

CBS BOSTON: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask could be sidelined most of this week with an upper-body injury.

TSN.CA: Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi came off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Teammate Joel Armia remains on the list while new Hab Eric Staal is on the list as part of a seven-day quarantine before joining the club later this week.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators traded defenseman Christian Wolanin to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for minor-league forward Mike Amadio. Wolanin cleared waivers last week and was demoted to the Senators AHL affiliate in Belleville.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch explains the reason the Kings didn’t claim Wolanin off waivers was that they wanted the ability to get a contract off their books. They were interested in Wolanin but wanted to be sure the Senators would take Amadio’s contract.

NHL.COM: Former NHL forward Bobby Schmautz passed away at his home in Arizona on Sunday at age 76. He spent 13 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Rockies. He tallied 20-or-more goals nine times, including two 30-plus goal campaigns. Schmautz spent over six seasons with the Bruins. In 764 games, he scored 271 goals and 557 points, along with 61 points in 84 postseason contests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Schmautz’s family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2021

Recaps of Wednesday’s games and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Edmonton Oilers 6-1 to sweep their three-game series. Jimmy Vesey scored two goals, Jason Spezza collected three assists and Fredrik Andersen made 26 saves in his return to action after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Auston Matthews also returned after missing two games with a wrist injury but was held scoreless.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 in their three games, including back-to-back shutouts. They held Oilers captain Connor McDavid scoreless while Leon Draisaitl managed just one assist.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their fourth straight victory by taming the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves while Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch and Colin Stephenson each had a goal and an assist. Wild winger Zach Parise was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career with the club owing to an overextended shift during Monday’s overtime loss to Vegas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury has bounced back well from last season’s inconsistent performance. He’s among the league leaders with 11 wins, a .939 save percentage, 1.71 goals-against average and three shutouts. The 36-year-old netminder could become a Vezina Trophy finalist if he can maintain that level of play.

Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog each had four-point performances as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the San Jose Sharks 4-0. Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for the shutout. It was a costly win for the Avs as center Nathan MacKinnon left the game in the third period after a hit to the head from Sharks winger Joachim Blichfield, who received a match penalty and could face supplemental discipline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avs coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon seemed to be doing okay following the game. We should find out today or tomorrow if he avoided serious injury.

A shootout goal by Jakub Vrana lifted the Washington Capitals over the Boston Bruins 2-1. David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins while Lars Eller replied for the Capitals. The Bruins honored former captain Zdeno Chara with a video tribute as he returned to Boston for the first time since signing with the Capitals in the offseason. Before the game, the Bruins announced center Charlie Coyle was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.

The St. Louis Blues got power-play goals from Oskar Sundqvist, Brayden Schenn and Zach Sandford to hold the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington kicked out 27 shots. The Ducks have dropped eight straight games.

Arizona Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta stopped 40 shots as his club nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Two goals 40 seconds apart in the second period by Nick Schmaltz and Johan Larsson gave the Coyotes the win. The Kings have dropped three straight.

IN OTHER NEWS…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said his decision to fire goalie coach Stephane Waite during Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Ottawa. He said he consulted interim head coach Dominique Ducharme beforehand but not with netminder Carey Price, who learned of the move following the game. The Habs hired Sean Burke as their new director of goaltending.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin said the move was made to help Price improve his performance, which has fallen off over the past four seasons. The Habs GM is not expected to make any further organizational changes this season after firing coaches Claude Julien and Kirk Muller last week. However, Bergevin could face losing his job if his moves fail to improve the Canadiens,

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter was fined $5,000.00 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros on Tuesday. Saros is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

CBS SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve yesterday.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said league revenue for 2021-22 could be affected by Canada’s slow vaccine rollout. While admitting it is premature to make predictions, Daly hinted it could affect everything from revenue to competition, including division alignment, travel and trades. He also said the league remains optimistic that its trajectory remains on pace toward a normal work environment for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadian government maintains the COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all its citizens who want one by September. Recent reports suggest the distribution of those vaccines could speed up in the coming months. Nevertheless, we won’t know for certain until the start of next season what the effect will be on Canadian teams and league revenue.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 25, 2021

Recaps of Wednesday’s games plus updates on Artemi Panarin, Tomas Hertl, Jason Zucker and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 25-save shutout in a 3-0 blanking of the Carolina Hurricanes. Alex Killorn collected two assists and rookie Ross Colton tallied his first NHL goal as the Lightning (25 points) move to within one point of the first-place Florida Panthers in the Discover Central Division.

Speaking of the Panthers, they fell 3-0 to the Dallas Stars. Anton Khudobin kicked out 43 shots for the shutout and Joe Pavelski picked up two assists as the Stars snapped a six-game winless skid.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux (NHL Images)

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux picked up three assists after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list as his club held off the New York Rangers 4-3. Rangers winger Chris Kreider tallied a hat trick and Mika Zibanejad has two assists.

William Nylander scored the tying and winning goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Calgary Flames 2-1 in overtime. Flame goalie David Rittich made 37 saves as he was denied his second straight shutout of the Leafs.

Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise tallied his 800th career point and teammate Mats Zuccarello got his 400th in a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Nico Sturm also scored twice as the Wild (20 points) have won four straight games to sit one point behind the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes in the Honda West Division.

Speaking of the Coyotes, they overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Anaheim Ducks for the second straight game. Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist for Arizona as they took the game on a shootout goal by Christian Dvorak. Coyotes backup Adin Hill made 14 saves in relief of Darcy Kuemper after the latter left the game with a lower-body injury.

The Los Angeles Kings picked up their sixth straight victory by hanging on for a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Cal Petersen turned aside 35 shots for the win on second-period goals by Alex Iafallo and Andreas Athanasiou.

HEADLINES

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Kontinental Hockey League said it had not been made aware of or received any complaint in relation to any incident involving Artemi Panarin back in December 2011.

Panarin’s former KHL coach Andrei Nazarov alleged the Rangers winger assaulted a young woman in a bar following a game in Riga, Latvia. The KHL said it would’ve investigated any such complaint as they take allegations of misconduct “incredibly seriously”.

To date, there’s been no corroborating evidence to support Nazarov’s allegation. No victim has come forward nor has there been any police record of the alleged incident. Kip Brennan and Jon Mirasty, two of Panarin’s former Vityaz teammates, both said they never knew or heard of the incident taking place.

Another former teammate, Mikhail Anisin, told Russian outlet Sport-Express the incident didn’t play out as Nazarov described, recalling Panarin “didn’t beat anyone, maybe pushed one girl a little bit, nothing more” in a karaoke bar. Anisin said police did come to the team hotel but left after determining the situation didn’t warrant charges. He also rejected the notion of the police being paid off as the players at the time didn’t have that type of money.

Panarin remains on a leave of absence from the Rangers as he deals with this situation. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is looking into the allegations. Kaplan said it would be uncharacteristic of the league to punish Panarin without corroborating evidence.

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker also cited Anisin’s comments. She also spoke with Maxim Sitnikov, who briefly played with Panarin during that season. Sitnikov also denied the alleged incident took place, praising the winger’s character and rejecting what he called “villains” saying “all sorts of nonsense.” Walker cited two more former Vityaz players who requested to remain anonymous agreeing with Brennan’s and Mirasty’s version of events.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The allegation against Panarin is quickly falling apart. Unless Nazarov can produce evidence to corroborate his story he should withdraw his comments and issue an apology to the Rangers’ star.

SPORTSNET: The NHL postponed Thursday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights after a Sharks player tested positive for COVID-19. Sharks center Tomas Hertl was placed on the league’s COVID-19 list yesterday. New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller was also added to the list, which is now down to eight players, four of them members of the Flyers.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins winger Jason Zucker has returned to Pittsburgh for further evaluation for what appeared to be an injured knee or ankle suffered during their recent game against the Washington Capitals.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon is sidelined at least a month with a fractured hand.

TSN: The Penguins yesterday claimed defenseman Mark Friedman off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers.

CBC SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks forward Antoine Roussel was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL for roughing Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Pulujarvi on Tuesday.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes will soon be allowed to admit some fans to their games following North Carolina governor Roy Cooper’s announcement yesterday that indoor arenas can open to 15 percent capacity.

NHL.COM: Former NHL goaltender Gary Inness passed away on Feb. 23 from dementia at age 71. Inness played 162 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals from 1973-74 to 1980-81. He also coached the AHL’s Hershey Bears from 1981-82 to 1984-85. Following his hockey career, he became a teacher and guidance counselor at Barrie North Collegiate Institute until his retirement in 2010.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Inness’ family, friends and former teammates.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 24, 2021

Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, recaps of Tuesday’s games, the latest on Artemi Panarin, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

**UPDATE**

The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller. Assistant coach Dominique Ducharme has become interim head coach while Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After bursting from the gate with a 7-1-2 record the Canadiens were 2-6-2 and in danger of falling out of playoff contention in the North Division. General manager Marc Bergevin was busy in the offseason improving the roster. A coaching change was the next step. It’ll be interesting to see how the Habs respond to this move. 

Ducharme spent eight seasons coaching in the QMJHL, guiding the Halifax Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup in 2013. He was also a two-time bench boss of Canada’s World Junior team, coaching them to a gold medal in 2018. He joined the Habs’ coaching staff as an assistant later that year.  Following his NHL career, Burrows joined the Canadiens’ farm team in Laval as an assistant coach. 

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark made 41 saves in a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, handing the latter their third straight loss. Buffalo winger Sam Reinhart collected two assists. Earlier in the day, the Sabres announced defenseman William Borgen will be sidelined up to two months following surgery on Tuesday to repair a broken right forearm.

The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their third straight win by edging the Washington Capitals 3-2. Kasperi Kapanen tallied the winner in overtime as he and Jake Guentzel each had a goal and an assist. It was a costly win for the Penguins as Jason Zucker and Kris Letang left the game with injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zucker’s injury looked serious as he had to be helped off the ice after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on both players could be made later today.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).

Patrick Kane scored his 398th career goal and collected three assists as the Chicago Blackhawks nipped the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-5. Alex DeBrincat tallied the game-winner in a shootout while Carl Soderberg had three points for the Hawks. Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand each scored twice for the Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation. He’s the engine driving a Blackhawks team that wasn’t expected to be a playoff contender this season. They’re third in the Discover Central Division with 24 points, two behind the first-place Florida Panthers.

Shootout goals by Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris gave the Ottawa Senators a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, handing the latter their sixth loss in their last eight games. Brady Tkachuk tallied twice for the Senators, including the game-tying goal after the Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Shea Weber tallied twice for the Habs. Senators center Derek Stepan left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher wasn’t happy after his apparent game-winning goal in the dying seconds of regulation was overturned by what he considered a questionable goaltender interference call. Regardless of the validity of Gallagher’s complaint, the Canadiens once again struggled against the worst team in the league. The loss led to today’s firing of Claude Julien as head coach. 

Pekka Rinne had a 24-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Filip Forsberg had a goal and an assist as both goals came in the third period.

The Edmonton Oilers scored four unanswered goals (three in the third period) to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Dominik Kahun tallied twice and Leon Draisaitl collected three assists for the Oilers. Canucks center Elias Pettersson had a goal and an assist.

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: Four of Artemi Panarin’s former KHL teammates dispute their former coach’s claim the New York Rangers winger assaulted a young woman in Riga, Latvia in 2011. The allegation by former Vityaz coach Andrei Nazarov forced Panarin to take a leave of absence from the Rangers. Nazarov, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has publicly criticized Panarin in the past for his outspoken views of the Putin regime.

Larry Brooks reports there’s been no corroboration thus far of Nazarov’s account. Sources say the NHL hasn’t opened an independent investigation and has no intention of doing so due to the lack of credible evidence. There’s no timeline for Panarin’s absence. A source refuted a report the winger sought and was granted two weeks. He remains at his Connecticut home.

Brooks cites a source claiming Nazarov didn’t have a good relationship with Panarin when the winger played for him. Another suggested Nazarov was trying to curry favor with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation in hope of being rewarded with a coaching job.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some have wondered why Panarin needs to take time away from the Rangers after claiming Nazarov’s accusation is baseless. He still has family in Russia and is apparently concerned about the effect of this story on them.

Nazarov reportedly claimed Panarin was detained by local police officials and there were a criminal case and trial. That should be easily verified by local records but nothing has been produced thus far to back up that claim.

SPORTSNET: Henrik Lundqvist is back on the ice less than two months after undergoing open-heart surgery. He was in full gear taking shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if this means a return to action for Lundqvist is in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s great to see him back on the ice again as he continues his recovery.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers captain Claude Giroux returned to practice yesterday for the first time after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. The Flyers will evaluate him in practice today to determine if he’ll face the Rangers tonight. Teammates Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun remain on the COVID protocol list.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen has been sidelined indefinitely by a concussion. He suffered the injury during last Friday’s game against the Blackhawks.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson suffered a season-ending knee injury during Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings. It could also end his tenure with the Blues as he’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

NHL.COM: The league released another update to its schedule to account for games previously postponed by COVID-19 protocols and recent winter storms in Texas.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

​​A growing number of NHL stars are speaking out against racial justice, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray talks about his club’s future in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE NHL STARS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE

TSN: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban pledged $50,000 to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna’s GoFundMe page.

“Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same: no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen, change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part.”

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 13: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins poses for his official headshot for the 2019-2020 season on September 13, 2019 at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Patrice Bergeron

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pledged $25,000 to the Boston branch of the NAACP and $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.

 “Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Jason Zucker, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber and teammate Brendan Gallagher, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and winger Tom Wilson, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson joined a growing list of NHL stars issuing statements speaking out against racial injustice.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas believes his club can and should do more to combat systemic racism.

“I think what we’ve learned, especially in the last number of days, is that with the Maple Leafs and with our players and with our staff … we need to be doing more on the anti-racism side of things. Not only with our statements and our words and our tweets and what we put out there but with our actions, and we know that people will be watching us and holding us accountable in that regard.”

ESPN.COM: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes described his experiences as a black player in a predominantly white sport.

“The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor,” Weekes said. “And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.”

Weekes called upon the NHL to implement harsher punishments for racially motivated incidents or slurs and to evaluate its relationship with local police departments.

For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players, to do hyperscreening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We’ll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell notes the growing number of NHL players speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and racism toward black people have galvanized the sport. He wonders if this will bring about necessary change within hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL stars adding their voices against racial injustice, bigotry, and intolerance. However, they must back up their comments by actively working against racism within the sport and in society

Subban and Bergeron accompanied their words with deeds. Hopefully, other players will follow their example.

I’m not doubting the players’ sincerity, but if they don’t back up their comments with positive action, their words will ring hollow.

LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported an NHL source said the league hasn’t yet whittled down its list of 10 potential hub cities down to two for its return-to-play tournament. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago are believed in the running. The league could narrow down that list and finding suitable locations within the next two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent protests against racial injustice in many US cities could affect the league’s decision. The potential Canadian locations depend upon whether the Canadian government eases its current COVID-19 border restrictions or deems NHL employees as essential works.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the NHL won’t begin Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan until all 31 teams can safely and legally reopen their training facilities. There are also complications involving foreign-born players being allowed to return to their Canadian NHL cities because of the country’s border restrictions. July 10 is the earliest date training camps could open, with the 24-team tournament beginning in late July or early August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 allows the players to return to their respective NHL cities to engage in voluntary small-group training in their practice facilities. The league is believed to be aiming for mid-June to formally introduce that phase.

SPORTSNET: Ontario premier Doug Ford said the NHL told him it would use private labs to process COVID-19 tests of players and staff should the league resume plan this summer. Toronto is among the teams on the proposed list of hub cities for the return-to-play tournament.

DUCKS GM EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT NEXT SEASON

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Elliott Teaford reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray voiced his displeasure over his club’s poor performance this season. He expects improvement and more accountability from his players in 2020-21.

Murray singled out his core players. “No excuses,” he said. “All of our core guys have to pick up their games.” He also intends to meet next week with head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff in person if possible.

The Ducks GM spoke about his club’s free agents. We’ve talked to them all,” Murray said. “In some cases, we have the hammer. In some cases, they have the hammer. There’s not going to be a lot of money out there (because of the coronavirus pause in play). The (salary) cap could be flat for a couple of years. Revenues could be tight.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks were a mess last season. Teaford cited their anemic offense, underachieving special teams, and inconsistent play.

Part of it had to do with their rebuilding roster, as several promising youngsters failed to play up to expectations. Some of it was Eakin readjusting to the NHL game after coaching in the minors. Some of it was core players like Rickard Rakell failing to step up. Murray can demand accountability but it remains to be seen if the Ducks can elevate their play.