Here are a few news & notes items from around the NHL.
- The NHL and NHLPA are expected to meet this week in Las Vegas as representatives from both sides are attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) there. It was reported that the two sides are expected to discuss the status of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which can be re-opened this September. It’s been reported that there have been some initial discussions and that the players are not looking to re-open the agreement but make a few tweaks (escrow rates being one topic the PA seems to harp on).
- The St. Louis Blues were awarded the All-Star game for the 2019-20 season. The Blues have renovated their building, the Enterprise Center, and that is part of the reason why they were awarded the game.
- The NHL announced 3 outdoor games for next season (2019-20 season):
- The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames will play on October 26th (2019) at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium.
- The January 1, 2020 New Year’s Day outdoor game will be in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl Stadium. Dallas’ opponent has not yes been announced.
- On Feb. 15, 2020, Colorado will play a yet-to-be-named opponent at United States Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs.
- The league has discussed with both Florida teams the possibility of a night time outdoor game but nothing official has been decided.
- The recent New Years Day outdoor game between Chicago and Boston attracted a sell-out crowd of 76,126. It was the 2nd largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game live.
- The IIHF announced they plan to play the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics games on NHL sized rinks (as opposed to the longer and wider IIHF sized). Some people see this as the IIHF trying to entice the NHL to allow their players to play in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
- The NHL schedule includes a bye week for each team this season. It’s a 7 day break for each team that starts later in January.
- No news out of Seattle now they officially have a team. I did hear Commissioner Gary Bettman was stopping by Seattle on Wednesday to meet the the Oak View Group. It will be Bettman’s first stop in Seattle since they were awarded an NHL franchise.
- The Flyers fired their head coach, Dave Hakstol, and hired Scott Gordon who was the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Gordon was given the title “Interim Head Coach”. So far, in 11 games under Gordon the Flyers have a record of 2-6-3.
- The Chicago Blackhawks added Sheldon Brookbank to their coaching staff under head coach Jeremy Colliton. Brookbank was Colliton’s assistant with the Rockford IceHogs, the AHL affiliate of the ‘Hawks. Brookbank is a former NHL defenseman who was a noted tough defenseman.
- New Jersey Devils (16-18-7) signed their head coach John Hynes to a multi-year contract extension. I was a bit surprised as, after making the post season last year, the team doesn’t look like they’ll make it this season. A report also indicates Devils GM Ray Shero will get an extension but nothing has been announced yet.
- Islanders head coach Barry Trotz recently moved into 4th place in coaching wins all-time with his 783 win. Only Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville and Ken Hitchcock have won more games. Trotz has turned the Islanders into a defensively responsible team. They’ve given up the fewest goals in the league this season whereas last season, they gave up the most.
- There was talk this week that the Lightning are nearing an extension for their head coach Jon Cooper. Cooper is in the final year of his contract. The ‘Bolts are the league’s top team and they’ve been impressive from the first game of the season.
NHL Insiders / Rumors
- Sportsnet reported this week that Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton, 25, could be moved via trade. In 41 games this season, Hamilton has recorded 6 goals and 8 assists. Hamilton was acquired from Calgary at last year’s Entry Draft. He was a top pairing defenseman with Calgary but is a 3rd pairing defenseman with Carolina. He led the NHL in goals from a defenseman last season with 17. Hurricanes forward Michael Ferland, a pending UFA, is also reportedly available via trade as the ‘Canes have talked contract with him but the two sides were not close in the financial assessment of the player. Ferland has recorded 12 goals and 7 assists in 34 games this season. He has missed some time with a concussion. The Hurricanes have been looking for scoring help since just about the start of the season. The ‘Canes are 28th in a 31 team league in goals for.
- Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, a pending UFA, is reportedly available but the price is a first round draft pick. St. Louis was interested in Howard but didn’t want to part with a first rounder (seems wise since the Blues are at the bottom of the league and will get an excellent 2019 draft pick).
- Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is reportedly available via trade. Zucc, 31, is in the final year of his contract and is unrestricted free agent in the summer. He admitted recently that the uncertainty around his situation has affected his play. Zuccarello has 4 goals and 14 points in 28 games this season and a -20 rating.
- TSN reported Blues forward Patrick Maroon, a pending UFA, will be moved by the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Maroon has 3 goals and 11 points in 32 games this season after signing with the Blues this summer as a UFA. The player is on a one year contract at $1.75 M/ season. Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnerson are also pending UFA’s and should be moved by the trade deadline. Bouwmeester, 35, is nowhere near the player he once was and has been a healthy scratch a few times this season.
- Recent reports indicate Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, a pending UFA, will re-sign in Vancouver before season’s end. Edler’s name has been mentioned in trade in the past 2 or so seasons but he has always maintained he wants to stay in Vancouver. Edler, 32, recently became the franchise leader in games played for a Canucks defenseman.
- Rangers center Kevin Hayes could be the biggest name to move at the trade deadline. Hayes, 26, has recorded 33 points in 39 games this season on 10 goals. People who’ve watched a few Rangers games this season say Hayes is the Rangers top player. He’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
IIHF World Juniors
- Some people were disappointed with Canada’s 6th place finish at this years World Juniors in Vancouver. Seems Hockey Canada has work to do to figure out how to get Canada back to near the top at the junior level. I did not catch much of the tournament myself preferring NHL games but it was the first time in 13 times hosting that Canada did not medal.
- Final placement in the tourney were:
- Gold – Finland
- Silver – USA
- Bronze – Russia
- 4th place – Switzerland
- 5th place – Sweden
- 6th place – Canada
- Team USA forward & Montreal Canadiens first rounder Ryan Poehling was named tournament MVP. He recorded 5 goals and 3 assists in 7 games.
- Team Russia defenseman Alex Romanov was named the tournaments top defenseman. The player recorded 8 points on one goal during the tournament. Romanov is also a ‘Habs draft pick (2018 second round).
- USA goaltender Cayden Primeau, former NHL player Keith Primeau’s son, was named Player of the Game in the semi-final game (when the US defeated Russia 2-1). Primeau is also a Canadiens draft pick (from 2017).
- Canada’s captain Max Comtois played the tournament with a separated shoulder.
- A report from Finland indicated 544,000 citizen’s in Finland watched the goal medal game that started at 3 AM local time.
- ‘Habs GM Marc Bergevin indicated recently that he is not interested in trading prospects at the trade deadline to push for a post-season spot. The Canadiens are currently one point out of a wildcard spot. The organization has a number of top prospects that would garner interest from other teams.
- Carey Price decided to skip the All-Star game due to injury. He has to sit out a game either just before or just after the ASG which Bergevin indicated would be the Feb. 2 game against New Jersey (after the ASG).
- The NHL will apparently name a Price replacement quickly. Some fans were hoping for Freddy Andersen but he is also battling an injury plus resting instead of the ASG would seem wise.
- Price is 12 wins away from tying the ‘Habs franchise leader Jacques Plante for most wins by a Canadiens goaltender. Plante recorded 314 wins as a Canadien and Price has 302.
- The Flames are really rolling right now and are 2nd in the league in points.
- All-Star forward Johnny Gaudreau is on fire recently with 14 goals in his past 13 games and 13 points in his past 5 games. Gaudreau is 3rd in NHL scoring with 64 points.
- The Flames are the first team since the 1995-96 Penguins to have 4 players with 50 points or more after the team’s first 45 games of the season.
- Off-season addition Elias Lindholm has, after half the season played, eclipsed his highest career points and goals totals. He has 20 goals and 48 points this season and his career high before this season was 45 points and 16 goals.
- Defenseman Mark Giordano collected his 300th career assist on Monday. Giordano has recorded 42 points in the team’s first 40 games and fans want him to be considered for the Norris for the league’s top defenseman. Gio leads the league in plus/minus with a +29. He’s defying his age as he’s now 35 years old.
- The team also leads the league in shorthanded goals with 14.
- David Rittich has taken over the number one goaltender position for the Flames. In 21 appearances this season, he has a 15-4-3 record with a .921 SV%. Rittich is a restricted free agent as season’s end so the team needs to get him signed for a few seasons. Back-up Mike Smith (12-9-0) has an .886 SV% and a 3.09 GAA. Smith, 36, is a UFA at season’s end.
- Forward Michael Frolik has been unhappy with his situation in Calgary (he’s been a healthy scratch a few times) and his agent has spoken out publicly about it. Frolik has one more season left on his contract but has had numerous injuries this season. Not sure the organization will look to move the player at the trade deadline but they were reportedly unhappy with his agent’s public comments.
- Bill Peters was named Team Pacific head coach for the All-Star game in San Jose. He said he was honored to be named and will take his family with him to the event.
- Leafs have lost 3 of their past 4 games and have been shutout twice but are still third overall in the NHL in points. Babcock indicated after Monday’s 4-0 loss against Nashville that Nylander, Kadri and Marleau need to start producing a bit more offensively. Nylander has just one goal & 2 assists in 14 games since returning.
- The team has lost just one game this season when leading after the first period (17-1). Seems getting a lead for them is key.
- Forward Zach Hyman is nearing a return from his ankle injury. I heard Monday that Hyman will play Thursday against the Devils in New Jersey.
- Auston Matthews lost a bet with Finn Kasperi Kapanen on the World Juniors final game. The Finns won over the USA 3-2.
- Forward Andreas Johnsson is playing well recently. In his last 19 games, Johnsson has recorded 7 goals and 9 assists for 16 points.
- Mitch Marner played in his 200 career game this past Saturday. He holds the franchise record for most assists after a players first 200 games (129 assists).
- Goaltender Garret Sparks is suffering from a concussion. No word on how much more time he will miss.
- John Tavares is one goal from 300 for his career.
- Caught part of the game Saturday against Vancouver and though forward Trevor Moore looked like an NHL player. Coach Babcock says the player will be an NHL’er but they want him playing as much as possible and playing 20 mins at the AHL level is better for him at this point than 8 minutes in the NHL. Moore went the college hockey route playing at the U of Denver. People say Moore’s emergence made former forward Josh Leivo expendable.
- Some experts expect the Leafs to make a deal for a defenseman before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Alex Pietrangelo’s name has been mentioned but it seems it would take very good players/prospects to acquire him. Leafs first rounder (2017) Timothy Liljegren name has been mentioned as possibly being moved as Rasmus Sandin (first round 2018) is as good or better than Liljegren. The other need is a back-up to Freddy Andersen as it’s risky to go into the post season with a rookie like Sparks.
- The team lost their first game in regulation on Sunday night since Nov. 27 going 15-1-1 over that period. The team leads the league in points with 66, 8 more points than second place Calgary.
- Nikita Kucherov had a 12 game point streak end on Sunday night. He recorded 8 goals and 27 points over the 12 games. Kucherov also recently hit the 400 career points mark – the first player from his 2011 draft class to reach the milestone. Kucherov went 58th overall in 2011.
- Twenty-two year old forward Brayden Point is second on the team in points with 54. He needs a new contract this summer (is a RFA).
- The Lightning have been to the Conference Finals 2 of the past 3 season’s so have to be a top pick to win the Cup this year – but anything can happen in the post-season. The Lightning lead the league with an average of 4.12 goals/per game; the league average is 3.02 goals / game.
- Forward Steven Stamkos recently played in his 700th career game. He’s recorded 715 points on 371 goals. Amazing.
- The Pens have won 10 of their past 12 games and had won 8 straight before losing Sunday night to Chicago. Goaltender Matt Murray has returned to form having won his past 7 starts.
- The Penguins signed restricted free agent forward Jake Guentzel to a 5 year contract at an annual rate of $6 M. Good deal for the Penguins. Jake is a proven playoff performer (42 points on 23 goals in 37 post season games). Pens GM Rutherford said Guentzel, 24, is part of the core of the Penguins. With the new contract, the Pens bought 2 of Guentzel’s UFA seasons.
- The Islanders are 9-1 in their past 10 games and goaltender Robin Lehner has won 6 straight decisions. Lehner is on just a one year contract and is unrestricted in the summer. His record this season is 11-6-3 in 21 appearances with a 2.18 GAA & a .927 SV%.
- Captain Anders Lee is also a pending UFA; there have been contract discussions with the Islanders and it does seem likely the player stays with the team but no contract has been agreed to yet.
- Forward Jordan Eberle (8 G & 10 A) is also pending UFA and there have been no contract discussions with the Islanders. Seems likely that Eberle will be traded by the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Forward Brock Nelson is pending UFA, too. Nelson has 13 goals and 13 assists this season. Nelson, 27, has played his entire career with the Islanders.
Streaks & Milestones
- Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson has recorded a point in 13 straight games. It’s the longest point streak in Shark franchise history.
- LA Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick won his 300th career game this past Saturday. Quick is 5th overall in wins by a USA goaltender.
- Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored his 300th career goal also on Saturday. Kopitar is the 5th player in franchise history to record as many goals.
- Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek recently played in his 1,000 career game. He’s the first Austrian born player to reach the milestone. Vanek will most likely be dealt by the trade deadline as he’s a UFA in the summer.
- San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns also recently played in career game 1,000. Burns, 33, shows no signs of slowing down and is leading the league in points from a defenseman with 47 (Leafs Morgan Rielly is 2 points back).
- Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is 3 wins from becoming the winningest goaltender in Bruins history. Bruins goaltending legend Tiny Thompson recorded 252 wins with the Bruins organization and Rask has 249 wins with the Bruins.
- NY Rangers defenseman Marc Staal recently played in his 800th career game. Staal ranks 10th all-time in games played for a Rangers player.
- Florida Panthers forward Troy Brouwer recently played in his 800th career game.
- Penguins captain Sidney Crosby recently skated in his 900th career game. Only Mario Lemieux (915) has played more games in a Penguins uniform.
- Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson became the franchise leader in points from a defenseman with 312.
- Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley recently played in his 1,000 career game.
- Bruins Patrice Bergeron recorded his 300th career goal the other day.
- Montreal placed defenseman David Schlemko on waivers and the Flyers claimed former Ottawa/Vancouver goaltender Mike McKenna off waivers.
- Predators forward Filip Forsberg returned Monday night against the Leafs after missing 17 games with an injury.
- Winnipeg Jets top defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is on the shelf with an ankle injury. The team indicates it won’t be until after the Jan. 25 All-Star game that Byfuglien will be available to play.
- Kings forward Carl Hagelin returned Saturday from missing time with an injury. Hagelin has won 2 Cups and is a UFA in the summer. I expect the LA Kings to trade him to a playoff team by the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
- Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler returned to the line-up Sunday after missing 23 games with a broken jaw.
- Dallas Stars center Martin Hanzal was placed on the injury reserve list. He’s played in just 7 games this season after having spinal fusion surgery this past off-season. His ability to continue his career seems in jeopardy.
- Minnesota Wild will be without defenseman Matt Dumba probably until next season. Dumba tore his pectoral muscle and required surgery. The Wild said he’ll miss a minimum of 3 months.
Odds & Ends
- Reports are that there is a lot of pressure in Minnesota (20-17-3) to make the post-season. The team is currently tied with the Ducks for the final wildcard spot in the West. With General Manager Paul Fenton in his first season as GM (he didn’t hire head coach Bruce Boudreau), there is talk that if the Wild can’t get into the post-season, Boudreau could be replaced.
- Ducks forward Ryan Kesler is having a tough season. He has just 6 points in 40 games and is a -14 this season. He did have off-season hip surgery but that’s not good production for a player making $6.875 M this season.
- Former NHL player Dominic Moore signed in the Swiss league. His contract is for the remainder of the Swiss season. Moore, 38, had hoped to continue his NHL career and recently participated the in Spengler Cup for Canada.
- Red Wings center Dylan Larkin set a franchise record when he scored his 4th OT goal this season.
- Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie became the franchise leader in points from a defenseman. Barrie has 278 points with the Avs franchise.
- Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray became just the 5th person to play in 1,000 regular season games and manage 1,000 regular season games. Murray had a successful career as a forward playing mostly with Chicago. The 4 others who have achieved the same mark are Sharks GM Doug Wilson, former ‘Habs player Bob Gainey, Bobby Clarke and Bob Pulford.
- Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is one game from tying the ‘Bolts franchise record for games played by a defenseman (662 games). Hedman already hold the franchise lead for goals, assists and points for a Lightning defenseman. Hedman, 28, won his first Norris trophy last season.
- The Ducks are struggling with a 0-6-2 record in their past 8 games.
- Vegas has been playing very well recently going 16-3-3 in their past 21 games.
- Vancouver is struggling to score and have been shutout 4 of their past 7 games. Doesn’t help that their points leader, Elias Pettersson, out of action with an MCL sprain (knee).
- Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl has 198 points in his last 200 games in the regular season. He’s on pace for 44 goals and 103 points this season. He’s producing but the Oilers don’t get a lot of offense outside of Draisaitl, McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
- The Oilers were 9-10-1 in 20 games under former head coach Todd McLellan and were outscored 66-57. Since Hitchcock took over, the team is 10-9-2 and have outscored their opponents a collective 65-60. Seems to point to the roster not being strong as opposed to lack of good coaching.
- San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski has 25 goals in 44 games this season (he scored 22 all of last season) and was selected to attend the All-Star game. Pavelski, 34, is an unrestricted free agent and there have been no apparent contract talks between the team and player.
- The Senators and forward Mark Stone are said to be starting contract discussions soon. Stone says he wants to stay with Ottawa. He signed a one year deal with the team this past summer for $7.35 M so it seems it will take a lot of cash to get him re-signed. He has recorded 47 points in 42 games this season on 20 goals. He is reportedly the leader of the team.
- The Canucks extended their AHL affiliate agreement with the Utica Comets. The team was looking at other options but decided to stick with Utica.
- Canucks GM Jim Benning father passed away over Christmas. Elmer Benning was a long time Montreal Canadiens scout. Oilers defenseman Matt Benning is his grandson and Jim’s brother, Brian, son.
- The Sabres terminated forward Patrik Berglund’s contract after he didn’t show up to a team practice. Seems the player wanted out of the contract. Not sure what the issue was; some people have said the player wants privacy on the matter.
- Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin decided to skip the All-Star game and instead rest. The January 26th All-Star game bumps up against the Capitals bye week so Ovi will have extra time to rest and be ready for the stretch run and post-season.