While it was a quiet week on the transaction front aside from the usual long list of daily taxi movement, there were still plenty of newsworthy stories around the NHL which are highlighted in the key stories of the week.
Skinner Saga: Last season was a tough one for Jeff Skinner as he managed just 14 goals in 59 games, hardly the type of performance they were expecting from a $9MM commitment. However, his struggles last year pale in comparison to this season as he has just one assist in 16 games. Things came to a head when he was a healthy scratch for three straight games with his agent, Don Meehan, getting involved on behalf of his client. Skinner has since returned but Buffalo’s offensive drought continued as they’ve been shut out in two straight games. While a trade at this point is all but impossible with six more years left on his deal after this one so it will be worth watching to see if they try to put him back in a top-six role to try to get him going or if he’ll be spending more time in the press box before long.
More From Buffalo: Skinner’s situation wasn’t the only notable news. It was also revealed that defenseman Jake McCabe would miss the next six-to-eight months due to several injuries to ligaments in his right knee, ending his season. It’s a tough blow for the Sabres who lose a top-four defenseman while McCabe now will be entering unrestricted free agency coming off a season that was limited to just 13 games. Meanwhile, another pending UFA has hit the trade block in blueliner Brandon Montour. The 26-year-old looked like a core addition when Buffalo acquired him back in 2019 but he has struggled considerably over parts of three seasons with the team. With a $3.85MM price tag, the Sabres will either have to retain salary or take a contract back to facilitate a trade.
Canadiens Change Coaches: The first coaching change of the season has taken place with Montreal firing head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. Assistant coach Dominque Ducharme was promoted to the top spot on an interim basis for the rest of the season while Alex Burrows was added to the coaching staff after spending parts of three seasons with AHL Laval. The Canadiens actually got off to a hot start this season winning seven of their first ten games (and picked up a point in two of their losses) but have won just twice in ten games since then. Julien is 13th in all-time NHL coaching victories (17th in games played) and is still owed $5MM this season and next on his contract. Meanwhile, this is Ducharme’s first head coaching role in the NHL.
Vancouver-Anaheim Trade Talks: While a trade ultimately didn’t materialize (or hasn’t yet, at least), the Canucks and Ducks were involved in discussions surrounding wingers Jake Virtanen and Danton Heinen. Making the money work has been a challenge so far despite the fact that the difference in cap hit between the two is only $250K. It goes to show how tricky making the salary cap element work is going to be with so many teams tight to the Upper Limit of the cap this season. Both wingers have struggled this season and could certainly benefit from a change of scenery but it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be getting moved for each other just yet.
Panarin Leave Of Absence: Rangers winger Artemi Panarin has been granted a leave of absence from the team following public allegations of an assault on an 18-year-old female during his time with Chekhov Vityaz in the KHL ten years ago. Panarin denies the allegations, which some believe are politically motivated with his prior public support of opposition leader Alexi Navalny while the Rangers have also issued a statement supporting their star. There is no timetable for his return.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.