NHL News & Notes to 10 Dec 2018

Here are some NHL news items from around the league:

League-wide

  • The BOG met Dec. 3 & 4th in Sea Island, Georgia and a few items that I heard were discussed included:
    • Of course, the Seattle franchise was approved and will start in the 2021-22 season. Many people were happy with this news as Seattle is a terrific city and has a long history of successful sports franchises. The new Seattle team will join the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division.
    • The board was given a figure of between $81 M –  $85 M with a probable figure of $83 M for the 2019-20 salary cap. In the past 5 seasons, the cap has increased an average of 3.7% each season.
      • 2019-20 – $83 M *an estimate as this point
      • 2018-19 – $79.5 M
      • 2017-18 – $75 M
      • 2016-17 – $73 M
      • 2015-16 – $71.4 M
      • 2014-15 – $69 M
    • The escrow has been set at 13.5% for the next quarter. Players get 13.5% taken from each pay cheque (players don’t appreciate it but it’s related to the how the cap is calculated).
    • Seems there are still some owners that want more teams in the post season. Currently, 16 teams make the post season but the owners see it as an opportunity for increased revenue for their teams. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been against this idea preferring to stick with the 16 teams. The current discussion seems to be 2-4 more teams per conference qualifying for the post-season.
    • There was some discussions around shortening game intermissions from 18 mins to 15 mins to reduce the length of games. A shorter intermission could cut into concessions sales, though.
  • Gary Bettman said at the BOG meeting if Ottawa can’t get it together for a new downtown arena they are prepared to stay the course with the Canadian Tire Center in Kanata. Bettman has tried to wade into civic disagreements in the past with NHL teams with mixed success. Calgary’s mayor did not seem to want any part of the Commissioner’s help but in Edmonton, their previous mayor Stephen Mandel did have success working with the league to get a downtown arena. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was not at the recent BOG meeting.
  • The NHL sees the All-Star game, that’s Saturday, January 26, 2019 in San Jose, as a key date to get plans discussed with the NHLPA around a 2020 World Cup. So far the NHLPA has not indicated either way whether they are interested in another World Cup and the league is awaiting a response from them.
  • The 2019 NHL All-Star game will be played on Saturday (Jan. 26) not Sunday as was the case in previous years. The league has gotten the game scheduled for prime time on Saturday. The skills competition will be held on the Friday. The BOG usually meets during All-Star game weekend.

Seattle

  • Time frame for announcing a team name is this summer. The Seattle group plans to strategically make announcements about the franchise in an effort to keep fans interested in advance of their first season in 2021. Apparently, Jay Deutsch, one of the Seattle investors, is working with fellow investor, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, on the name.
  • The franchise added an additional 17,000 fans to their season ticket wait list when the team was secured on December 6. They already had 32,000 fans making season ticket deposits.
  • The cost for the KeyArena renovations was first set at $700 M but is now $850 M and the construction is starting if not already, very soon. The Oak View Group is investing $1.6 B into this project (includes the $850 M reno fee). There is no current plan to include tax payer money. The KeyArena reno project work runs to April/May of 2021. KeyArena will host concerts from April/May 2021 until the NHL team starts the season. This will help with adding some revenue to pay for costs plus there could be a building naming deal, as well, to further help offset costs. The new training facility will reportedly cost between $70 M – $100 M.
  • Victor de Bonis, COO of the Seattle group, said the KeyArena renovation is more of a gutting of the entire building; the only part that will remain is the roof.
  • As far as a General Manager for the Seattle team, Tod Leiweke said they are in no rush and want to see how next season goes and who does well then. Some names I’ve heard as possibilities, Vegas AGM Kelly McCrimmon and Leafs AGM Laurence Gilman; both have experience and good success on the expansion process. Gilman was a consultant to Vegas GM George McPhee on the expansion draft, which turned out exceptionally well for Vegas. Other names include Detroit’s GM Ken Holland who has this season and next remaining on his contract. Former Canucks GM Mike Gillis could get consideration but he has not been working with a team for a number of years.
  • The Seattle franchise team president Tod Leiweke has been talking a lot to Vegas GM George McPhee about what’s involved in building up an expansion team and said McPhee has given him very good advice.
  • Experts are saying an expansion draft for Seattle would be held around June 2021 with the same rules as Vegas. Vegas is exempt from the expansion draft.
  • The Oak View Group wants to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle but the NBA does not want them talking about it. The NBA will open discussions when it’s right for them, apparently.
  • The OVG has already paid $100 M of the $650 M expansion fee; will pay an additional $200 M in September 2019 and the remaining ($350 M) by 2021.

GM’s & Coach News

  • The Anaheim Ducks signed their General Manager Bob Murray to a 2 year extension which means he is under contract to the Ducks until the end of the 2021-22 season. Murray is the 4th longest tenured NHL GM, only Nashville’s David Poile (1997), Red Wings Ken Holland (1997), Sharks Doug Wilson (2003) have been running their team longer. Murray’s contract exceeds Ducks key players Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry’s contracts by one season (Perry & Getzlaf see their contracts expire June 30, 2021). Murray is reportedly looking to build a younger roster in his remaining time with the team.
  • The Blue Jackets announced they are switching the roles of their assistant coaches: Brad Shaw is moving to oversee the defenseman and the Jackets other assistant Brad Larsen will oversee the forwards. The change was made in consultation with GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
  • The San Jose Sharks did some shuffling of the coaches. Rob Zettler, who was in charge of the team’s defense, is now going to view the game from the pressbox, the team’s “eye in the sky”. Assistant coach Dave Barr who was the “eye in the sky” is moving down to the bench and will handle the forwards. Steve Sprott switches from working with the forwards to with the defenseman.
  • Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson is helping out on the St. Louis Blues bench as an assistant coach to interim head coach Craig Berube. Robinson said he’ll be with the team as long as GM Doug Armstrong needs but sounds like they’ll reassess at Christmas.

Hockey Insiders/Rumors

  • Sportsnet reported Monday that Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo could be available. Blues are having a terrible season, 29th in the 31 team league. Pietrangelo has one more year left on his contract after this season at which point he’ll be a UFA. Would seem to be a big decision by GM Armstrong to trade their captain. Nick Kypreos indicated the Leafs may be a trade partner with Zaitsev going to St. Louis.
  • Carolina are looking for scoring help. The organization was interested in the William Nylander situation with the Leafs as they had interested in the player but are now, of course, looking elsewhere.
  • The New York Islanders and their captain, Anders Lee, are in negotiations on a long term deal. Lee has recorded 22 points on 11 goals this season and is in the final year of a 4 year, $15 M contract he signed back in the summer of 2015. Lee will be unrestricted this summer. Sounds like it would be about $7 M – $7.5 M / season to get Lee on a 6 year deal. Lee recorded 62 points (40 goals) in 82 games last season.
  • The St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers are both apparently looking for a goaltender. Blues were interested in pending UFA Red Wings Jimmy Howard but the price was a first round pick which the Blues did not want to pay.

Leafs

  • The Leafs play their next 4 games on the road and then have 3 games at home before Christmas. That’s 7 games in 14 days; with travel it’s a tough schedule for the team. The team plays Tuesday in Carolina against former Leafs goaltender Curtis McElhinney and then pop down to Florida for games against the Lightning and Panthers. They wrap up their 5 game road trip in New Jersey next Tuesday (Dec. 18). The players Mom’s will be with the team for the two games in Florida which seems to be special for the players.
  • Seemed to mix reviews on the details of the Nylander signing, 6 years @ $6.96 M /season. Leafs fans were ecstatic but some people see it as Nylander won the negotiation. The team was originally offering $6 M per season for 6 years and Nylander got it to $7 M /season for 6 years. The player’s cap hit in the first year is $10.2 M with a $6.9 M cap hit in the remaining 5 years; the player lost nothing by missing 25% of the season. Nylander is making more than David Pastrnak who currently has 20 goals in 30 games this season and also more than MVP runner-up Nathan MacKinnon. It’s mostly about cap management for the Leafs as they have a cap crunch starting next season because of the Matthews & Marner contracts plus Gardiner is a UFA. GM Dubas really wanted Nylander back in Toronto and found a way to make the numbers work under the cap. Helps the Leafs a lot that the cap is increasing next season to $83 M. Some experts wonder if more players (RFA’s) will stretch out their negotiation until December 1st as the player did not lose anything by doing so. Nylander was the first RFA to get near the December 1 deadline before signing.
  • Zach Hyman was suspended for 2 games for the hit against Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy. NHL Player Safety deemed the hit late. Connor Brown was moved to the top line with Tavares and Marner in Monday’s practice. He’s a speedy player that I hope can get going offensively.
  • Auston Matthews has 16 goals in 16 games played (he missed 14 games with a shoulder injury). His shooting percentage is an incredible 29%, 16 goals on 55 shots.
  • Sounds like GM Dubas wants to get a head start on contract negotiations for pending RFA’s Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The two players reportedly want the other to be the first one to start discussions with the team to see what the other guy signs for. There is talk that Auston Matthews could get an offer sheet in the summer. Teams can start discussing with unsigned RFA’s who’s contracts are up after the entry draft. Basically a team pitches a huge contract to the player and the original team matches or receives 4 first round draft picks.
  • The team signed Marlies defenseman Calle Rosen to a 2 year one-way deal for $750,000 / season effective the start of next season. This adds some depth on the Leafs blue line. There are no guarantee the team can get pending UFA Jake Gardiner on a new contract and defenseman Ron Hainsey in also in the final year of his deal and unrestricted in the summer. Rosen, 24, can apparently play on either the left or right side on defense. In 24 Marlies games this season, the Swede has 19 points on 17 assists.
  • No current scuttlebutt around signing pending UFA Jake Gardiner. I am really hoping the team can retain Gardiner as he’s a strong player, a leader for the team on the blue line. Gardiner has 17 points in 30 games. Jake apparently loves being a Leaf but he should get a lot of interest as a UFA. He’s very solid and seems to be a quality person. It’s expected if he stays a Leaf, he’d probably not make as much as he could with another team.
  • Marlies defenseman Rasmus Sandin & Timothy Liljegren were both selected to play for Team Sweden at the upcoming World Juniors in Vancouver. Liljegren injured his ankle on the weekend so it’s not clear how much time he’ll miss. Additionally, 6th round selection from 2018, Swede forward Pontus Holmberg, was invited to the Swedes WJC selection camp. Filip Kral a Czech d man drafted in the 5th round in 2018 was invited to Team Czech camp.

Flames

  • The team have 19 wins in their first 30 games which is tied for the second most in franchise history after 30 games. In their past 10 games, the team is 7-2-1.
  • Flames lead the league in 30 point players with four: Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm and Tkachuk.
  • The team’s top line of Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm have accounted for 43% of the team’s goals this season.
  • The team is 13-2-0 when scoring first. The team has also recorded four 5 goal periods whereas the rest of the league combined has three.  The Flames are 5th overall in the league in goals scored.
  • Goaltender Mike Smith, after a terrible start to the season, has won 5 straight.
  • Second line center Mikael Backlund was placed on injured reserve with a suspected concussion after Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hit him hard in a recent game.
  • Off-season UFA signing James Neal has had a very trying season with 6 points on 3 goals after 31 games. Neal signed a 5 year contract this summer at $5.75 M /season. Just has not been a fit so far in Calgary for Neal.
  • Off-season addition Elias Lindholm has tied a career high in goals with 16 after 31 games played. Lindholm has been a terrific addition to the team; plays on the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan and is a strong 2 way forward. Lindholm is 24 years old and signed for 5 more seasons after this one on a team-friendly $4.85 M /season contract.
  • Flames forward Mark Jankowski, 24, recently played in his 100th career game. Jankowski is a 3rd/4th line center that is still improving.

Flyers

  • The Flyers parted way with defenseman coach Gord Murphy (when Hextall left) and brought in veteran NHL coach Rick Wilson who was an assistant in Dallas for the past 14 seasons. Apparently, the team’s defense is the most pressing issue with management. Seems defenseman Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere has regressed the most this season and Wilson will be working to get these two, plus their entire defense group, back on track. Gostisbehere is a team worst -13 this season. Provorov is a highly rated player for the Flyers and just 21 years old but recorded 41 points last season and tracking towards a 29 point season this season. Provorov is in the final year of his entry level contract and contract talks have apparently stalled. The player said that is not affecting his play.
  • New GM Chuck Fletcher is on the team’s current 5 game road trip (Flyers won first game 6-2 against the Sabres and lost 7-1 against the Jets with games against Calgary, Edm and Vancouver remaining). He’s indicated he is taking some time to get to know the players and staff before making any changes. Seems head coach Dave Hakstol is safe for now but the team will be challenged to make the post-season.
  • Hakstol recently moved into 3rd place in all-time Flyers games coached. Hakstol has coached 273 Flyers games. Fred Shero is the Flyers leader in games coached with 554 games and Mike Keenan coached 320 Flyers games.
  • Fletcher is the first Flyers GM since Russ Farwell was hired in 1990 that did not play for the Flyers.
  • Starting goaltender Brian Elliott is nearing a return from injury. The team has struggled keeping the puck out of their net in Elliott’s absence.
  • Number one center & team captain, Claude Giroux, is having an excellent season so far for the team. He leads the team in points by 15. Giroux has 11 G & 25 A (36 pts) in 28 Flyers games.

Blackhawks

  • The ‘Hawks are tied with the Kings for the fewest points in the league and the team has won just 5 games in regulation time this season. The team has lost 7 straight games and are 3-11-2 under new head coach Jeremy Colliton (the team was 6-6-3 under Joel Quenneville). Some wonder if the Colliton hire was the right one especially following a Hall of Fame coach like Quenneville. The team has lost 17 of their past 20 games.
  • Captain Jonathan Toews is having a very good season despite the ‘Hawks lack of team success. Toews is on pace for 34 goals and 63 points. He had a tough last season with 20 goals and 52 points. Toews reportedly looks faster and he worked on it in the summer.
  • Defenseman Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta are apparently available.
  • Artem Anisimov suffered a concussion on the weekend and is out of action.

Dallas Stars

  • The Stars are 10-3-1 at home this season; good for second best home record.  They are 7-1-1 in their last 9 games at home and have won 4 straight home games. The team is 6-8-2 on the road. Head coach Jon Montgomery said the other day he wants the team to play with more energy and passion on the road.
  • Two Finnish defenseman, Esa Lindell & rookie Miro Heiskanen, have really stepped up in John Klingberg’s absence (broken hand). Lindell, 23, is playing over 24 mins / game this season & 19 year old Heiskanen is playing 23 mins/game.
  • Klingberg is reportedly recovering well from the broken hand suffered on Nov. 8th. He is expected back in the Stars line-up on December 27.
  • Center Martin Hanzal returned to game action after missing 10 months due to spinal fusion surgery. Hanzal played 12:22 mins in his return on Friday and said post-game it was “the hardest game of my life”. Sounds like it will take a few weeks for Hanzal to feel comfortable again in game action.
  • Defenseman Marc Methot is day to day with a lower body injury. Connor Carrick is out 3 more weeks with a foot injury. Stephen Johns is day to day recovering from a concussion. Johns has yet to play this season.
  • Forward Gemel Smith was placed on waivers by the Stars and was claimed by the Boston Bruins.

Oilers

  • The team is 7-2-1 under new head coach Ken Hitchcock and have won 4 straight home games. The team is 11-1-2 in one goal games this season.
  • Finland-native goaltender Mikko Koskinen is playing well for the Oilers. He has a 9-3 record overall with a 2.06 GAA with a .929 SV%. In 6 home games this season, Koskinen is 6-0 with 3 shutouts and a .972 SV%. Koskinen, 30, is on a one year deal and unrestricted at season’s end. Cam Talbot is a UFA at season’s end (or, more precisely, on June 30, 2019 at midnight) as well.
  • The team is sticking with McDavid and Draisaitl together on the top line for now (the team has tried to split them up to distribute scoring but seems to work better with them together on a line, at least in the short term). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centers the second Oilers line. RNH is having a very good season for the team with 26 points in 30 games.
  • Defenseman Oscar Klefbom, 25, has emerged as the team’s number one defenseman, particularly since Hitch took over. Klefbom is playing 26 mins per game and strong both offensively and defensively. In 30 games this season, Klefbom has 15 points.
  • Hitch has apparently worked with the players on gap positioning – where, in for example the d zone, the forwards moves down to around the face-off dot in the d zone supporting the defenseman better and then moving up ice as a 5 man unit. I’m enjoying watching the Oilers under Hitch as he’s from Edmonton and a legend as far as NHL coaches go (3rd all time in wins with 830 wins). He shares an incredible amount of detail about the game with anyone who’ll listen.
  • The team plays the Avalanche and Winnipeg (Tues and Thursday) on the road in what should be two tough, hard fought games.
  • Forward Alex Chiasson is one goal from his career high in goals (13) with 53 games remaining in the season. Chiasson was a PTO signing by the Oilers but finds himself now on the Oilers top line with McDavid and Draisaitl.
  • Forward Drake Caggiula is injured and not playing; apparently it’s a hand injury.

World Juniors – Dec. 26 in Vancouver & Victoria

  • Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta were awarded the 2021 World Junior Tournament. Overall, Canada is hosting this tournament 6 times in the next 13 years. Seems the IIHF likes to pair an NHL city and a team with a Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) franchise together in a year. The next 5 years the host cities are as follows
    • 2019 Vancouver / Victoria *starts Dec. 26, 2018
    • 2020 Czech Republic
    • 2021 Edmonton / Red Deer
    • 2022 *not yet announced
    • 2023 Russia
  • The Detroit Red Wings will not be making forward Michael Rasmussen available for the World Junior tournament. The player has recorded 5 goals (3 on the PP) and 9 points in 26 Wings games this season while playing 13 minutes a game. Rasmussen is Canadian. Filip Zadina will play for Team Czech at the tournament. Zadina is playing for the Wings AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he has 15 points in 23 games.
  • Doesn’t seem as though the Canadiens will make 18 year old forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi available for the World Juniors. Kotkaniemi would have played for Team Finland. The team indicated the player is getting better every game and they don’t really have a replacement for him on their roster. The player has 15 points in 30 ‘Habs games. He is currently the youngest player in the league at 18 years. Kotkaniemi recently said Artturi Lehkonen is his mentor on the team and helps him with day to day things. There is a language barrier for Kotkaniemi as his primary language is Finnish.

Restricted Free Agents

  • Penguins forward Jake Guentzal is in the final year of his entry level contract and will be a restricted free agent at season’s end. Guentzal’s stats compared to William Nylander:

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  • Post-season:

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  • Nylander got $7 M /season for 6 years, I expect Guentzal should get at least that, probably more, from the Penguins this summer.

Milestone & Streaks

  • The Sabres won 10 straight games in November and have since lost 5 straight (2 in overtime). The players held a meeting to discuss things and how to get back to winning.
  • Wild forward Zach Parise recently played in his 900th career game.
  • LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty recently became the franchise leader in defenseman assists with his 334th career assist. Rob Blake, current Kings GM, had previously held the record. Doughty also recently played in his 800th career game. Doughty is building a Hall of Fame career, 2 Olympic gold medals, 2 Cups and a Norris trophy plus 800 games. He just turned 29 years old so should have 6 or so good season’s left in his career.
  • Vegas forward William Karlsson became the first player in franchise history to record 100 career points. Karlsson reached the milestone in just 112 Golden Knights games. Karlsson is on pace for 26 goals this season (he had 43 last season).
  • Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall recently played in his 900th career game, all with the Red Wings. Kronwall is just the 3rd Wings defenseman to play as many games with the Wings. Nicklas Lidstrom (1564) and Marcel Pronovost (983) are the two Wings defenseman who’ve played more games for the Winged Wheel.
  • Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (3rd overall in 2011) recently played in his 300th game. Huberdeau, 25, is in his 7th NHL season and leads the Panthers in points with 34 in 28 games. The Quebec-native is tracking towards a 100 point season.
  • Lightning captain Steven Stamkos recorded his 700th career point on Monday. Stamkos is running hot right now with 12 points in his past 7 games including a Monday night hat trick against the Rangers.
  • Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf is one point from 900 career points.

2019 Outdoor Games

  • The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will meet in an outdoor game on January 1, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana.
  • There will be a second outdoor game on February 23, 2019 with the Penguins playing the Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Transaction

  • Canadiens defenseman Xavier Oulette cleared waivers and was assigned to the ‘Habs AHL affiliate in Laval.
  • St. Louis Blues goaltender Chad Johnson was placed on waivers by the team.

Injuries

  • Bruins young forward Jake DeBrusk is out of action after getting hit on the back of the head with a puck during a recent game. DeBrusk is experiencing concussion like symptoms.
  • Penguins veteran forward Patric Hornqvist returned from missing games with a concussion only to get injured again. The most recent injury is not a concussion but upper body. The team reports Hornqvist is day to day with the injury.
  • Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is two to three weeks away from returning to game action from a broken foot suffered on Nov. 15. Back-up goaltender Louis Domingue has played will for the ‘Bolts in Vasilevskiy absence; the team is 10-2 since Vasilevskiy was injured.
  • In Ottawa, leading scoring Matt Duchene is out week to week with a groin injury and forward Bobby Ryan is out indefinitely with a concussion.
  • Arizona’s starting goaltender Antti Raanta was played on injury reserve with a lower body injury. The team indicated the injury could mean Raanta will miss the rest of the season. Darcy Kuemper, Adin Hill and Calvin Pickard are Arizona’s goaltenders and Coyotes GM John Chayka indicated the team is not looking to trade for a goaltender saying the 3 goaltenders currently on the roster want a chance to play more.
  • Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy returned to game action after missing 20 games with a concussion. The player is a RFA and in the final year of his contract. There was talk the player was asking for over $7 M /season on a long term deal.
  • The Predators are missing a few key players currently due to injury. Forwards Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Kyle Turris and defenseman PK Subban. It’s over $25 M / season worth of Predators players on injury reserve.
  • Ducks key defenseman Cam Fowler is progressing from facial fractures after being hit in the face with a puck. Timeline for his return to game action is mid-January. Ducks forward Patrick Eaves has a rib problem and is out indefinitely; been a tough 18 months for Eaves as he missed most of last season with injury and has played just 5 games this season.
  • Panthers exciting young forward Vincent Trocheck broke his ankle in a game recently and his season is probably over.
  • Canucks center Brandon Sutter (shoulder) is expected back before Christmas and forward Sven Baertschi has started skating; he recovering from a concussion.

Odds & Ends

  • Canucks forward Sam Gagner was called up from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL to the Canucks but has since been returned to the Marlies. There is some talk the Canucks made trade the player with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting the Blackhawks may have interest. Gagner, 29, said he was really disappointed at the demotion and wants to play at the NHL level, if not with Vancouver than elsewhere. He is in the second year of a 3 year contract that pays him $3.15 M /season. He continues to collect that even in the AHL.
  • Jets Patrik Laine is on pace for 59 goals; he currently has 21 goals in 29 games.
  • The New York Islanders will play 21 regular season games at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island during each of the 2019-20 & 2020-21 seasons. The other home games will take place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The team is planning to have a new building ready in Belmont Park on Long Island in time for the 2021-22 season.
  • Canucks rookie forward Elias Pettersson has recorded two 5 point games this season. Mathew Barzal had three 5 games last season, the only rookie ever to record three 5 point games.
  • Montreal has allowed 3 goals or less in 8 straight games.
  • New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider is struggling to return to form after off-season hip surgery. In 8 appearances this season, Schneider, 32, is 0-5-1 with a 4.29 GAA and a .862 SV%. Schneider last recorded a win December 27, 2017. Keith Kinkaid has taken over as the Devils number one goaltender.
  • No news on what Columbus plans to do with their 2 high profile UFA’s, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Artemi Panarin. I don’t see either player back in Columbus next season. The team would be wise to trade both by the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline.
  • Canadiens forward Tomas Tatar is on pace for 33 goals and 33 assists which would be career highs. Tatar currently has 12 goals and 12 assists and the team is very happy with his play. Head coach Claude Julien said recently Tatar is a “warrior”.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the NHL in points with 47 and are 9-1-0 in their past 10 games (while missing their starting goaltender Vasilevskiy who was injured Nov. 10). They also lead the league in goals with 4.06 goals/game and have scored at least 5 goals in 8 of their past 12 games. The ‘Bolts have to be a strong favorite for Cup champs. The team has been to the Eastern Conference finals in two of the past 3 seasons so have valuable playoff experience.
  • Capitals Alex Ovechkin has an active 11 game point streak game and leads the NHL in goals with 22. Ovi is on pace for 62 goals. He is chasing an interesting record- most consecutive 20 goal seasons. Current leaders:
    • Marcel Dionne 17 seasons
    • Mats Sundin 17 season
    • Jaromir Jagr 17 seasons
    • Mike Gartner 15 seasons
    • Alex Ovechkin 14 seasons
    • Michel Goulet 14 seasons
  • On the Coyotes/Chicago Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome deal, after 6 games with Arizona, Schmaltz has 3 goals and 3 assists whereas Strome has 3 goals and 1 assist in 7 ‘Hawks games.
  • Vegas is 8-2-0 in their past 10 games and seem to have found their game after a slow start.
  • ‘Habs forward Max Domi has one less point than Leafs star John Tavares. Domi signed a 2 year deal at $3.15 M /season in the summer.
  • Max Domi’s teammate Johnathan Drouin is also having an excellent season with 10 G, 16 A and 26 points in 30 games while covering defensive responsibilities as a center. Drouin, 23, is tracking to set career highs in goals and points.
  • Red Wings young center Dylan Larkin is on pace for a career year, as well. After 31 games, Larkin has 12 goals and 28 points. His career high in goals is 23 and points, 61 (he’s on pace for 77 points this season). Larkin has 3 OT goals this season already; with one more OT goal Larkin will set a Red Wings franchise record for 4 OT goals in a season. Larkin, 22, signed a 5 year deal at $6.1 M in the summer. Some experts believe the Michigan native will be named Red Wings captain next season.
  • Doesn’t seem there has been progress towards Ottawa getting pending UFA forward Matt Duchene signed. Ottawa’s other star forward Mark Stone also is a UFA at season’s end and can sign a new deal after January 1, 2019. Some people see these as related as if one decides to stay, the other might. It was reported recently that if Duchene and the Senators cannot get close to a deal by this season’s trade deadline (Feb. 25, 2019), he’ll be traded. Duchene reportedly likes Ottawa but also wants to win; he been to the post-season just twice in his career.
  • Pending UFA Sharks forward Joe Pavelski, 34, is having an excellent season with a team-leading 19 goals. The Sharks captain had 22 goals last season. There have been no apparent contract talks with the Sharks captain. Not sure if Sharks GM Doug Wilson would look to move the forward at the trade deadline.
  • Sharks young forward Timo Meier, 22, is on pace for 40 goals and is in the final year of his entry level contract.
  • Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel ranks 3rd in multi-point games this season with 14. Eichel, 22, leads the Sabres in scoring with 36 points on 9 goals this season.
  • Sabres GM Jason Botterill has indicated he plans to start contract discussions with pending UFA Jeff Skinner in the new year. Skinner has 20 goals in 30 Sabres games and has developed excellent chemistry with captain Jack Eichel. Chances seem good that Skinner could reach a deal with the Sabres as the player reportedly likes being close to family in the Toronto area and he’s fit in very well with the Sabres. Plus, Sabres owner Terry Pegula has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to spend to get the player’s he wants.
  • There is a holiday roster freeze from midnight on Dec. 19th to midnight on Dec. 27.
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