NHL News & Notes to May 5, 2019. Conference finals start this week.

Here are a few news and notes items from around the NHL.

League-related

  • Commissioner Gary Bettman was recently in Ottawa appearing before the Federal Government commons subcommittee into sports-related concussions. Some of the topics he touched on both before the hearing and during:
    • The Senators are not for sale. The organization is efforting to find a new building – one that’s not on the outskirts of Ottawa and they are also actively recruiting for a team president. Bettman also said the team is not in financial difficulties.
    • During the hearings. the commissioner said fighting is down 54% in the past 4 years and, further, the links to CTE and hits to the head are inconclusive at this point. Bettman also added that 85% of NHL games do not have one player fight – the highest rate since the 1964-65 season. Some people are calling on the league to ban all hits to head during the course of NHL game play but Bettman says because some players are taller than others it would be very difficult to just ban all head contact and the physicality of the game is a part of their sport. The commissioner indicated the fans do enjoy the physical play seen during games. He also added the league has added concussion spotters for all games where players who appear to have possibly suffered a concussion are removed from play and tested before they can re-enter the game.
  • Bettman recently indicated the development of the Islanders new arena at Belmont Park on Long Island is still on track for the start of the 2021-22 season. The new arena will hold 18,000 fans. The plan for next season is to again have the Islanders split their home games between Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center.
  • Collective bargaining agreement negotiations – I’ve not heard anything on the status of NHL/NHLPA CBA negotiations. The two sides were meeting in January and I assume discussions are continuing.
  • The contract buyout window is from June 15th to June 30th. The general calculation is two thirds of the cost of the original value paid out over twice the number of seasons (and the buyout amount counts against the cap). If the player is under age 26, the team pays a third of the contract value. If a player signed his contract at age 35 or older, there is no cap relief for a bought out player. So if a player has 2 years left at $4 M, the calculation is $8 M * .67 = $5,360,000 paid out over 4 years (a $1,340,000 amount against the cap for 4 years).
  • The NHL Entry Draft is Friday and Saturday, June 21 & 22 and is being held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

GM’s & Coaching News

  • Red Wings VP of Hockey Ops, Ken Holland, is expected to named the Oilers new General Manager this week. Some of the names that were in the final round of interviews included Kelly McCrimmon who was recently promoted to GM in Las Vegas with George McPhee moving to team president effective September 1, London Knights owner and GM Mark Hunter, Oilers AGM Keith Gretzky and Sean Burke. Holland’s contract with the Oilers is reported to be 5 years at $5 M /season.
  • The Flyers are reportedly going to add Michel Therrien as an assistant coach on new head coach Alain Vigneault’s staff. It’s not yet been confirmed by the team. Therrien and Vigneault both spent the last year living in Florida awaiting a chance to get back into NHL coaching. Therrien was previously head coach of the Canadiens until his dismissal in February of 2017.
  • There is strong speculation that Lightning AGM Pat Verbeek will be leaving the Lightning organization to join Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman with the Red Wings. Verbeek played a few seasons for the Red Wings and previously worked for the team as a pro scout. Verbeek joined Yzerman in Tampa Bay, as AGM. He is considered one the top AGM’s that should move into a GM position when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Nashville confirmed their head coach Peter Laviolette will return next season. It will be Laviolette 6th season’s as the team’s head coach. Laviolette is apparently under contract to Nashville until the end of the 2020-21 season. As the team disbursed for the summer, some of the players commented the team got away from their aggressive forecheck system this season while some other players noted the team looked really good for short stretches this past regular season but there was not the same consistency in their game that they’ve had in the past two seasons. The Preds PP ranks 31st in the 31 team league so that’s an area that needs improvement.
  • Former Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash has been spending time with GM Jarmo Kekalainen, President of Hockey Ops John Davidson & AGM Bill Zito. For now, there is no formal title as it seems both sides are seeing where Nash fits in the Blue Jackets front office. Nash has been taking in Blue Jackets games sitting with the team management and Kekalainen says he plans to have Nash attend the June Entry Draft with the Blue Jackets contingent, be part of the team’s free agency process for July 1 and generally be a part of the management of the team. Nash married a Columbus woman, the couple have 3 children and live in Columbus.
  • Open head coaching positions around the league:
    • Ottawa Senators- Leafs assistant DJ Smith is or has been interviewed. Some other names are Marc Crawford, Troy Mann (Belleville’s/AHL head coach), Penguins assistant coach Jacques Martin and Nate Leaman (head coach in Providence of the AHL).
    • Sabres – Some of the people who are getting interviewed include Lightning assistant coach Todd Richards who was a head coach with Columbus & Minnesota, former Coyotes and Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett, Jacques Martin who knows GM Botterill as they worked in the Penguins organization together and Sweden’s national team head coach Rikard Romberg. Sabres GM Botterill is reportedly preferring candidates with prior NHL head coaching experience as it’s something dismissed coach Phil Housley did not have.
    • Anaheim – haven’t heard any news around this, only that their current AHL head coach Dallas Eakins will get strong consideration.
    • Edmonton – new GM Ken Holland has to hire for this position or turn to Ken Hitchcock who went 26-28-8 in 62 games behind the Oilers bench this season.

Seattle

  • NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was in Seattle this past Friday and covered a few items:
    • the completion date for the KeyArena reno’s scheduled to now be June 1, 2021.
    • the league said that Seattle could host an Entry Draft around mid-June 2021 but it’s too early to confirm anything and key is the getting the renovations completed by the scheduled date.
    • the organization is still working towards arriving at a team name. One of the names that was considered, the Metropolians, was one the league thought sounded too much like the Metropolitian Division.
  • The rumored location for Seattle AHL affiliate is Boise, Idaho but it’s not yet official.

Scuttlebutt

  • The NY Rangers acquired Harvard (NCAA) defenseman Adam Fox’s signing rights from Carolina and then signed him to his ELC. Fox played this season at Harvard University and was originally drafted into the NHL by Calgary (66th overall in 2016). The Flames didn’t believe he was going to sign with them and moved his rights to Carolina in the Lindholm/Hanifin for Dougie Hamilton/Micheal Ferland deal. Carolina tried also to get him signed, owner Tom Dundon even tried to convince him, but he recently indicated he was going to again play at Harvard. Fox would of been eligible to play in the Hurricanes post-season games if the team could of got him to sign with them. Fox apparently only wanted to play with the Rangers. The Hurricanes received a 2019 second round pick and a conditional 3rd in 2020. Fox now says he’ll forgo his final season at Harvard and play with the Rangers in 2019-20. The conditional 3rd rounder the Rangers received in the deal becomes a 2020 second rounder if Fox plays at least 30 NHL games next season for the Rangers. In his NCAA career to date (3 seasons), Fox is the only player to, over the past 20 years, average over a point and a half per game. Fox has also agreed to play for Team USA at the upcoming World Championships in Slovakia.
  • Rangers GM Jeff Gorton says he’s very happy getting the second overall selection in the June entry draft (from the recent lottery draft) but he wants to expiate their re-build that started last summer. I assume that means being active on July 1 when unrestricted free agents can be signed. One name that’s been linked to the Rangers is Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin. The Rangers have two Russian players they just signed, first rounder (2018) Vitali Kravtsov and goaltender named Igor Shestyorkin (4th rounder in 2014). Both players played in the KHL this recent season and are expected to attend the Rangers September training camp.
  • The Penguins are reportedly considering putting all-star forward Evgeni Malkin on the trade market. Malkin has a full no trade clause so would have to OK any move. Apparently, Malkin is thinking though the possibility while decompressing from the season. Some experts have said the Penguins stars – Malkin, Letang, Kessel – were more difficult to coach this season. GM Rutherford said he’s still unwinding from the season and no decision on personnel changes are near.
  • Pending UFA Jeff Skinner (40 goals this season) reportedly want to stay with the Sabres and contract talks are ongoing. Some experts believe the Skinner camp is using the Mark Stone recent contract with Vegas, 8 year deal at $9.5 M/ season, as a comparable. The players are similar in age (27) but not really in style of play as Stone is a strong, two-way forward and Skinner is slight and a goal scorer who does not play physical at all.
  • Vegas’ GM George McPhee said the NHL reached out after the Golden Knights lost game 7 against the Sharks and apologized for the 5 min major call against Cody Eakin where the Sharks scored 4 goals. Team owner Bill Foley said he will push for instant reply of 5 min major penalties at the next Board of Governors meetings.
  • Two Washington Capitals players are one year from UFA, center Nicklas Backstrom (currently at $6.7 AAV) and goaltender Braden Holtby ($6.1 M AAV). Both players are open to signing new deals with the team this summer.

Playoffs

  • Hurricanes defeated Islanders in 4 straight games
    • Carolina advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time since the 2008-09 season (the last time they made the playoffs) and it’s the forth time in as many post-season appearance they’ve reach the Conference Finals (also 2002, 2006 and 2009). Former Leafs goaltender Curtis McElhinney stepped in when ‘Canes starter Mrazek was injured and won the final 2 games of the series. He became the oldest goaltender in league history to win his first playoff start (35 years and 343 days). The Islanders really struggled to score in the series recording just 5 goals in the 4 games. The Islanders swept the Penguins in 4 straight games and then lost 4 straight against Carolina. It was the first time since the 1993 Buffalo Sabres that’s happened.
    • Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin is tied with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson for the points lead among defenseman with 11. Slavin does not get a lot of mention as one of the top young defenseman in the league.
    • Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele has tied a 2002 record set by Erik Cole for most points in the post season by a Hurricanes rookie (9 points). Foegele was a 3rd round selection of the Hurricanes back in 2014.
    • Hurricanes goaltender Peter Mrazek is expected to the ready for game 1 of the Conference Finals as is forward Micheal Ferland. Ferland has played in just 3 of the 11 Hurricanes post season games. I believe it’s a concussion-related problem he’s dealing with.
    • Hurricanes defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was injured in game 2 against the Islanders and required shoulder surgery and will be out of action for 4-6 months.
    • ‘Canes head coach Rod Brind’Amour became the first rookie head coach to reach the Conference finals since Guy Boucher did with Tampa Bay back in 2011.
    • Tom Dundon bought the team back in January of 2018 and it has injected new life into the franchise. In their 6 home post-season games they’ve averaged 19,092 fans (building capacity is listed at 18,680).
    • The Hurricanes would have home ice advantage against the Blue Jackets but not against Boston.
  • Sharks lead the Avalanche 3 games to 2
    • The Sharks are looking for their forth trip to the Conference finals since 2010.
    • Avs star Nathan MacKinnon has recorded 29 points in 23 post season games in his career and is just 23 years old. He’s reportedly been in contact will fellow Coal Harbour native Sidney Crosby during the post-season. Mackinnon had recorded a point in 8 straight post season games until that streak ended Saturday. When asked about the point streak MacKinnon said he didn’t care and it’s about winning. He said the teams goal is the Cup.
    • Logan Couture is having a terrific series and is tied for the league lead in post season points with 13. In the past decade only Alex Ovechkin has more goals (50) than Couture (43).
    • Sharks forward Joe Pavelski seems doubtful for game 7. He had a pressure cut and 8 staples put in his head after the cross check from Cody Eakin in game 7 against Las Vegas.
    • After game 5 that Colorado lost 2-1, Avs head coach Jared Bednar said the Sharks wanted to win that game more and played with more urgency and desperation. Game 6 is Monday night in Denver.
  • Boston leads Columbus 3 games to 2
    • Before these playoffs Columbus had won just 5 post season games in their 18 franchise history. They’ve won 6 already in these playoffs.
    • Recently signed defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, 23, played over 14 minutes in game 5 and reported looked good. The player was just recently signed by the team from the KHL and is the first Blue Jackets player to make their debut with the team in the post-season.
    • Win or lose in this series, the Blue Jackets success has really increased interest in the team. Their home games attract a sold out crowd of 19,337 fans.
    • Columbus’ pending UFA Matt Duchene is just the first player in franchise history to record 5 goals in a single post season.
    • Bruins David Pastrnak has recorded 35 points in 30 career post season games including 5 points in the 5 games against the Blue Jackets.
    • Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has had a very strong post season with a 2.33 GAA and a .928 SV%.
  • Dallas and St. Louis going to game 7
    • If the Stars win game 7, it will be their first trip to the Western Conference finals since the 2007-08 season. With a Stars win, the Rangers would get Dallas’ first round selection in the Entry draft as part of the Mats Zuccarello trade.
    • St. Louis has an impressive 5-1 record on the road in this year’s playoffs. I expect game 7 to be decided by which team gets better goaltending.
    • Blues forward Jaden Schwartz had 8 goals in these playoffs and 3 have been the game winning goal. He had just 11 goals in the regular season.

Leafs

  • The team has signed forward Yegor Korshkov a 22 year old winger from the KHL to a 2 year ELC. Korshkov also signed a PTO with the Marlies  and will join the team for their post-season run. Korshkov was drafted in the 2nd round, 31st overall, in the 2016 entry draft.
  • Sportsnet Elliotte Friedman reported that Mitch Marner wants the same annual salary as what Auston Matthews recently signed for, $11.6 M /season, but the team sees him more around the $9.5 M /season range. The organization feels it’s imperative to get Marner signed before July 1 as there is a possibility another team presents him with an offer sheet. Some experts believe centers are worth more than wingers (Marner is a winger). Lightning center Brayden Point (41 G & 51 A for 92 points) is also a 23 year old RFA needing a new deal. Marner put up 26 goals and 68 assists for 94 points. Experts don’t see Point signing for $10+ M a season. Kucherov with 128 points is at $9.5 M. It could be a tough negotiation with Marner.
  • Auston Matthews declined an invite to the IIHF World Championships as he had a procedure/surgery on his back this past week. Apparently he had a 2014 surgery on his leg and the screws left in were causing him back pain. With this recent surgery, the hope is he’ll no longer have back pain.
  • Seems there is next to no chance defenseman Jake Gardiner is back with the team next season due to his UFA status and the Leafs cap crunch. Before the team even considers signing their UFA’s (Hainsey, Gardiner, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov, Martin Marincin), they only have approx $9 M of cap space at an $83 M cap. Also, RFA’s forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson need new deals. Both players add to the depth of the Leafs forward group but with possibility of no Jake Gardiner or Hainsey next season, the team really needs decent defenseman and they are not that easy to find. I heard Ozhiganov may return to the KHL but he was not able to make the team anyway. Forward Connor Brown’s name was mentioned in trade around the trade deadline and I would be surprised if he is not dealt before the start of the 2019-20 season.
  • The Marlies are ahead 3 games to 0 in their conference semi-finals series against Cleveland. Apparently, 2017 first rounder defenseman Timothy Liljegren has looked very good as has first rounder from 2018 Rasmus Sandin. Forward Jeremy Bracco is tied for the league lead in points with 10. Head coach Sheldon Keefe seems to be one of, if not the top, head coaching prospect that is not in the NHL. The Marlies won the Calder Cup last season under Keefe.

Streaks and Milestones

  • Sharks forward Joe Thornton became just the 24th player all-time to reach 100 career playoff assists.
  • Hurricanes forward Justin Williams became just the 10th active player to record 100 career post-season points (39 goals, 61 assists in 151 post season games).

NHL Award Nominees. Awards show is Wed. June 19 from Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay hotel

  • Lady Byng (most gentlemanly player)
    • Flames Sean Monahan
    • Panthers Alex Barkov
    • Blues Ryan O’Reilly
  • Selke (top defensive forward)
    • Bruins Patrice Bergeron *won this 4 times which is tied with Bob Gainey for the most ever
    • Blues Ryan O’Reilly
    • Golden Knights Mark Stone
  • Masterton (dedication to the game)
    • Islanders Robin Lehner
    • Blue Jacket Nick Foglino
    • Sharks forward Joe Thornton
  • Vezina (top goaltender)
    • Stars Ben Bishop
    • Islanders Robin Lehner
    • Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy
  • Norris (top defenseman)
    • Sharks Brent Burns
    • Flames Mark Giordano
    • Lightning Victor Hedman
  • King Clancy (leadership on and off the ice and has made a humanitarian contribution)
    •  Coyotes Oliver Ekman-Larsson
    •  Rangers Henrik Lundqvist
    •  Wild Jason Zucker
  • Mark Messier Leadership Award
    • Flames Mark Giordano
    • Predators Wayne Simmonds
    • Hurricanes Justin Williams
  • Jack Adams Award – Coach of the Year
    • Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues
    • Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Barry Trotz, NY Islanders *my bet is here. Islanders went from giving up the most goals against last season to the fewest when Trotz took over at the season’s start
  • Calder Trophy (top rookie)
    • Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (24-5-1 1.89 GAA .927 SV% & 5 shutouts)
    • Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (71 GP, 28 G, 38 A. 66 Pts) *First Vancouver player to win since Pavel Bure in 1992
    • Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (82 GP, 9 G, 35 A, 44 Pts)
  • Hart Trophy finalists (most valuable to his team)
    • Sidney Crosby
    • Nikita Kucherov
    • Connor McDavid – none of the 3 finalists won a single post-season game. First time ever that’s happened.
  • Ted Lindsay Award (voted by players for MVP)
    • Oilers Connor McDavid *won it past two seasons but does not expect to win this year (also doesn’t expect to win Hart since Oilers didn’t make post-season). Says winning Lindsay award in the past meant a lot to him as the players all really respected Ted Lindsay who passed away just this year.
    • ‘Hawks Patrick Kane
    • Lightning Nikita Kucherov

IIHF World Championships (Slovakia May 10-26)

  • Team Canada has added John Tavares, Mark Stone and Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. Full list of players on their roster is here. Head coach Alain Vigneault recently said Murray is the team’s number one goaltender with Flyers 20 year old goaltender Carter Hart the back-up. Tavares has yet to report to the teams 4 day training camp in Vienna but is expected to do so on Monday. Team Canada has yet to name a captain or assistants. There are two roster spots still open and I assume the team will look at players that are eliminated  in round 2.
  • Team USA has added Flames players Johnny Gaudreau, Noah Hanifin and Derek Ryan. Also added was the player that will be taken first overall in the June Entry Draft, American Jack Hughes. Jack Hughes’ brother, Quinn (first rounder drafted by the Canucks) is also on Team USA. Patrick Kane was named captain of Team USA with assistants Ryan Suter and Dylan Larkin. I believe it means a lot to Kane to be named the team’s captain. He was Team USA’s captain last year as well.
  • Team Russia announced that Ilya Kovalchuk will captain their World Championship team with Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin & Sergei Plotnikov being assistant captains.
  • Team Sweden added Leafs forward William Nylander.
  • Team Russia’s roster here.
  • LA Kings forward Anze Kopitar is playing for Team Slovenia.
  • Rangers first rounder (2017) forward Filip Chytil will play for Team Czech. Chytil also played in the tournament last year and scored 2 points in 7 games.

Transactions

  • The Kings signed defenseman Markus Phillips who was their 4th round selection in 2017. Phillips played this season in the OHL splitting time between the Guelph Storm and Owen Sound Attack. He recorded 5 goals and 21 assists in 62 OHL games. Phillips is 6 feet tall and weighs 202. Phillips, a Toronto native, played for Canada at the U20 World Juniors this past year.
  • The Oilers signed their 2018 second round pick center Ryan McLeod to an entry level contract. McLeod is reported to be a fast skater with size, 6’3 & 205 pounds. He’ll join the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield for their playoffs.
  • The Red Wings signed their first round pick from 2018, center Joe Veleno to an entry level contract. In his final season in Drummonville of the Q, Veleno recorded 104 points on 42 goals in 59 games.
  • The Lightning signed defenseman Jan Rutta to a one year one way deal for $1.3 M. Rutta split time between the team’s AHL team in Syracuse and the Lighting last season. He was set to become a UFA on July 1. The Lightning have 3 other UFA’s on their blueline, Braydon Coburn, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi. No word on where contract talks at with the these players.

Odds & Ends

  • Oilers first rounder (10th overall, 2018) defenseman Evan Bouchard won the Max Kaminsky Trophy at the OHL’s top defenseman.
  • Montreal signed forward Jordan Weal to a 2 year contract. Weal was to be a July 1 UFA. The contract pays Weal $1.4 M in both years of the deal. Weal is 27 years old and in 63 games split between the Flyers, Coyotes and Canadiens this season, recorded 8 goals and 13 assists in 63 games played.
  • Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian had hip surgery and his recovery is estimated to be 5-6 months.
  • Many Dallas Stars fans were upset that 19 year old Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was not nominated for the Calder for the league’s top rookie. Some people believe neither Jordan Binnington, who played in just 30 of the Blues 82 games, or Rasmus Dahlin had better seasons. Heiskanen played as a Stars top pairing defenseman and averaged over 23 minutes of ice time per game. He recorded 33 points while playing in all 82 of the Stars games. Heiskanen didn’t really want to comment just saying he’s focused on the playoffs. Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said Heiskanen is a future Hall of Fame player.
  • Former Hurricanes GM Ron Francis says he’s very happy for the Hurricanes current success. Francis is one of the GM’s for Team Canada at the World Championships. He said he would be interested in returning to the NHL management but more in the role of an adviser and not as a GM. Francis’ contract with the Hurricanes runs out in June 30, 2019.
  • New Jersey Devils prospect Ty Smith was named Western Hockey League defenseman of the year. Leafs goaltending prospect Ian Scott was named WHL goaltender of the year and San Jose Sharks prospect Joachim Blichfeld was named WHL player of the year.
  • The son of Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Neidermayer, Josh Neidermayer, was drafted in the recent WHL draft by the Vancouver Giants. Josh is a 15 year old defenseman.
  • American 17 year old player, Jack Hughes, who is expected to go first overall to New Jersey set a new record for most points (32) scored at a Under 18 IIHF Men’s World Championships. Alex Ovechkin previously held the record.
  • The expectation is that Jets 21 year old RFA star Patrik Laine will sign a bridge deal with the team. The player runs hot and cold with his goal scoring and also the coaches are working with him to make him a more complete player. In 237 career NHL games, Laine has scored 110 goals or .46 goals per game which is incredible. Alex Ovechkin is at rate of .60 goals / game in his career.
  • Former NHL player, Red Kelly, sadly passed away at the age of 91. Kelly played in the league for 20 seasons and won 8 Stanley Cups in his career, 4 with the Leafs and 4 with the Red Wings. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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