The first full week of February is in the books. While there wasn’t any activity on the trade market (compared to two notable swaps last week), there was still some notable news around the NHL which is recapped in our key stories.
Kings Hire Smith: With Jim Hiller taking over as interim head coach, the Kings elected to bring in an experienced assistant, hiring D.J. Smith. Smith began the season with Ottawa as their head coach but was let go a little under two months ago after the team got off to a sluggish start. Smith spent parts of five seasons behind the bench with the Sens but his time in this role with Los Angeles could be short-lived as the contract is only for the rest of the season. Smith could be considered for other head coaching positions this summer or perhaps even the top job with the Kings if it’s decided that Hiller won’t be the full-time bench boss.
Kuznetsov Takes A Leave: Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has taken a leave of absence from the team and has entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. This is the second time he has been in the program with the first one coming back in 2019. The 31-year-old has struggled on the ice this season, averaging just 0.40 points per game, the lowest rate of his career. There is no timeline for his return and while he is away from the team, his $7.8MM AAV will not count against Washington’s salary cap.
Injured Again: In his first game back after recovering from a left leg injury, Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev suffered another long-term injury, fracturing his fibula and tibia in that same left leg. He underwent surgery the next day. While no official timetable for his return was released, head coach Jon Cooper indicated that the blueliner would miss the rest of the regular season at a minimum. Sergachev is a big part of Tampa Bay’s back end, logging over 22 minutes a night while being a key contributor so he will definitely be missed. The Lightning now will be able to go over the cap by an additional $8.5MM once they place him on LTIR, giving them some extra flexibility heading into the trade deadline, albeit at a key cost with Sergachev out long-term.
Edmundson On The Block: In the weeks leading up to the March 8th trade deadline, buyers will be looking to add some extra depth on their back end. One of the players they’ll be considering is Joel Edmundson as the Capitals are believed to be shopping the veteran. The 30-year-old was acquired at the start of free agency for a pair of draft picks with Montreal retaining half of his $3.5MM cap hit. However, Edmundson has underachieved with Washington, logging just over 16 minutes a night, well below his career average while chipping in with just three points in 34 games. However, he has two deep playoff runs under his belt (2019 with St. Louis and 2021 with Montreal) and was effective in both of those which should help generate some interest in him as a proven postseason performer.
Suspensions: The Department of Player Safety handed out a pair of suspensions to defensemen this week. First, Jets blueliner Brenden Dillon received a three-game ban for an illegal check to the head on Pittsburgh’s Noel Acciari, keeping him out of their lineup until this coming Saturday against Vancouver. Speaking of those Canucks, rearguard Nikita Zadorov was handed a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head on Detroit’s Lucas Raymond. He’ll be eligible to return on Thursday in a rematch against the Red Wings. Meanwhile, another defender is likely to receive a suspension as Toronto’s Morgan Rielly will have an in-person hearing on Tuesday for his cross-check on Ottawa’s Ridly Greig following a late goal on Saturday.
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