- Hardest Shot: Shea Weber (Canadiens), 106.5 MPH
Before Saturday’s All-Star Game three-on-three tournament, the NHL’s best will take the ice on Friday night in the annual All-Star Skills event. There has been considerable hype around this year’s competition, given both the new “Shooting Stars” event, in which players will fire the puck at targets on the ice from platforms in the stands, and the participation of stars from the women’s game, including their own three-on-three scrimmage. Now, the league has announced who specifically will be taking part in each event, both new and classic. Below is the lineup for each event:
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
David Rittich, Calgary Flames
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
David Perron, St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
American Women’s Elite All-Star (TBD)
Canadian Women’s Elite All-Star (TBD)
Team Canada: Meghan Agosta, Mélodie Daoust, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Renata Fast, Laura Fortino, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Blayre Turnbull
Team USA: Kacey Bellamy, Alex Carpenter, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson, Annie Pankowski, Alex Rigsby Cavallini, Lee Stecklein
All the action kicks off at 7:00pm local time in St. Louis, with coverage from NBCSN in the U.S and CBC, SN, and TVAS in Canada.
How the tables have turned already for Ilya Kovalchuk. The veteran forward was unemployed entering the new year after having his contract terminated by the Los Angeles Kings. Despite his decorated history in pro hockey, he was left scouting the market for a minimum contract with a team that maybe had a chance at the postseason in 2019-20. He landed in Montreal, signing a one-year, pro-rated $700K contract with a team heading in the wrong direction for playoff contention because that was his best option at the time. Just two weeks later, Kovalchuk’s stock has skyrocketed. The 36-year-old has eight points in eight games with the Canadiens and has looked phenomenal, especially compared to his play in L.A. When he first started scoring, many Habs fans were excited at the prospect of the team flipping him for assets at the trade deadline.
While this remains a distinct possibility, as Kovalchuk continues to produce many other are asking whether Montreal should instead look to re-sign the winger. Not only has Kovalchuk been an impressive offensive contributor, but he provides the veteran presence and star power that the team is lacking in its forward corps, which plays a part in why Kovalchuk has been such a hit with fans so early in his tenure. Yet, Kovalchuk has been so successful in such a short time with the Canadiens, that his camp is already thinking about cashing in, mere weeks after settling for the smallest NHL contract possible. When asked about the prospect of Kovalchuk re-signing in Montreal, agent Pat Brisson told TVA Sports that it is too early to talk extension. While he admits that Kovalchuk is enjoying his time with the team, Brisson states that the focus is only on making the playoffs, which – when spoken by an agent – is a strong indication that Kovlachuk will be looking to test the market or at least continue to drive up his price before talking contract with Montreal. A trade would also change the status quo and could afford Kovalchuk the opportunity to improve his stock even more with a postseason appearance, which seems unlikely in Montreal this season. While the veteran star is not going to land a long-term contract this season, his sudden resurgence all but guarantees that he will be back in the NHL next season and making significantly more than his current $700K cap hit.
- Ilya Sorokin is a name that has long been tied to the NHL, despite the player never having set foot on pro ice in North America. The New York Islanders prospect has long been one of the best goalies in the KHL, even at just 24 years old, yet he has been reluctant to sign with the team and commit to coming overseas. Reports earlier this season were that Sorokin wanted a clear shot to a guaranteed NHL job and has not been happy with the situation in New York, first with Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner last year, now Greiss and Semyon Varlamov this year, and at least Varlamov signed for several more years. Those reports indicated that Sorokin intended to stay in Russia unless traded by the Islanders. Some subsequent rumors believed that the team was considering moving Sorokin’s rights as a result. However, when KHL insider Igor Eronko approached Sorokin about the topic, a different sentiment came from the horse’s mouth. Sorokin expressed that he was surprised to read the stories about his trade demands and that the team was looking into moving him. He stated that he and the Islanders have a different understanding and he has not been told that the status quo has changed. Don’t be surprised if the Russian star remains Islanders’ property through the trade deadline after all.
- The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa writes that David Backes has five choices after being waived and demoted by the Boston Bruins. One option that might come as a surprise, not as a suggestion but as a concrete theory, is that Backes could retire rather than accept his assignment. Shinzawa reports that Backes seriously considered retirement after his concussion earlier this season, but was assured by a concussion expert that it was safe for him to return to action. Yet, after Backes failed to return to an NHL-caliber level of play, could he decide to play it safe and call it quits? He would forego the remaining salary on his contract, but would protect himself from the risk of long-term harm with another injury, one that would especially be a shame while merely competing at the AHL level. Shinzawa suggests that Backes could instead decline his assignment and see his contract terminated, which would make him a free agent where he could at least try to find a worthwhile job elsewhere in the NHL. The other option is that he simply accepts his assignment to AHL Providence, which could also lead to a trade request down the road or further consideration of retirement or contract termination before the end of next season.
Gerard Gallant spoke to the media for the first time since being relieved of his duties as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights for two and a half years, along with his longtime assistant in Mike Kelly, and made it clear that he intends to return to coaching, according to Jason Simmonds of the Journal Pioneer.
“I’m far from done,” said Gallant, 56. “I enjoy coaching. If an opportunity comes up I will definitely look at it – myself and Mike. Mike is a big part of what I do too and sometimes people forget about the assistant coaches. Mike is a good man, we have been together for a long time. It’s not just me, Mike is part of that, too. We will get ready and hopefully, something comes up.”
Despite being shocked and disappointed that his tenure in Vegas ended so suddenly, the longtime coach still has good feeling about his time with the team.
“The 2 ½ years were incredible,” said Gallant. “That first year was a magical season. If we could have capped it off winning the Stanley Cup it would have been incredible. The second year was a really good year, too. We made the playoffs, battled hard. Up until I got fired, I had 2 ½ years of being really happy in Vegas. It’s a good organization, a good team and I was excited.”
- There has been high hopes that the NHL and KHL might be able to produce a cross-over event between the two leagues. However, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reports that possibility now remains unlikely after an interview with KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko. “Everyone dreams of having a series, but it’s a matter of schedules,” said Chernyshenko. “What’s convenient for us is not convenient for them.” Kaplan said that Chernyshenko sat down with NBC to try to work out a time period that both leagues might get together, however, they failed to come up with dates to make it work.
- The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd writes that Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin needs to sign forward Ilya Kovalchuk to an extension now. Currently on a one-year deal with the Canadiens, the 36-year-old has been impressive in his first eight games with the franchise, posting four goals and four assists. The scribe suggests that with the window closing for players like Carey Price and Shea Weber, the team needs veteran players to aid an already young locker room. He also notes that while often players struggle when they reach Montreal and the pressure that comes with it, Kovalchuk has thrived, suggesting he’s a perfect fit for the Canadiens and needs to be retained rather than moved at the trade deadline or worse, hope that he’ll sign a new deal in the summer when other teams can lure him away.
Following last night’s results, each of the top five teams in the Pacific Division are within one point of each other, top to bottom. The Vancouver Canucks stand alone in first place with 58 points, but with each of the following four teams sitting at 57. It is the first time since 1978 that the top five teams in an NHL division have all been separated by such a small margin after January 1. Of course, not all point totals are created equal; Vancouver and Edmonton have played just 49 games, while Calgary has 50 games played and Vegas and Arizona have 51. As such, the teams’ point percentages differ more than their total points, especially in the case of the Canucks versus the Knights and Coyotes. Nonetheless, it is still a tight division, and one that has been on the rise this season to now occupy both Western Conference wild card spots. The Central Division’s top three – St. Louis, Colorado, and Dallas – may all have better records than any team in the Pacific, but the rest of their division has been overtaken. The 57/58-point range at this point in the year is nothing to criticize either. There are currently eleven teams with 57 or 58 points, all of whom are in playoff positions or just outside. So while the likes of Washington, Boston, and St. Louis might make the high fifties look light, it is actually a great pace for a playoff hopeful. With such a tight postseason picture right now in both conferences, though specifically the Pacific Division, every game counts and every little move made impacts those games. Keep an eye on all of today’s transactions here, as you never know what minor move could shift a season:
- Many of “today’s” minor transactions occurred late last night, as 17 different teams are entering their bye week and many shuffled their young players to minors once their final game came to an end. The Ottawa Senators are one such example. The team reassigned young forwards Drake Batherson, Filip Chlapik, and Rudolfs Balcers to AHL Belleville following last night’s win.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs were in a similar boat, sending Adam Brooks and Tim Liljegren back to the AHL’s Marlies following last night’s game, which was also Liljegren’s NHL debut. Brooks has played in seven games with the Maple Leafs so far in his rookie season.
- The Arizona Coyotes also head on bye, and have demoted goalie Adin Hill, defenseman Kyle Capobianco, and forward Michael Chaput to the Tuscon Roadrunners. Hill has played a key role of late for the ‘Yotes, but the team hopes to have Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta at full strength on the other side of this time off.
- The St. Louis Blues made just one minor move before hitting their bye, assigning young defenseman Niko Mikkola to the San Antonio Rampage. Mikkola has looked good on the ice if not on the score sheet in five games with the Blues this season.
- Also making just a single demotion before the bye were the Dallas Stars, who sent forward Joel Kiviranta to AHL Texas. Kiviranta is still looking for his first NHL point after seeing limited ice time in seven NHL games and will benefit from an increased role in the minors for a while.
- Other bye week moves being reported by CapFriendly include the Los Angeles Kings sending forwards Matt Luff and Jaret Anderson-Dolan to the Ontario Reign, the San Jose Sharks shifting Joachim Blichfeld, Joel Kellman, and Antti Suomela to the AHL Barracuda locker room, and the Montreal Canadiens reassigning veteran Dale Weise to the Laval Rocket.
- This morning, the Buffalo Sabres announced their own flurry of moves, reassigning forwards Rasmus Asplund and Scott Wilson and defenseman Lawrence Pilut to the AHL’s Rochester Americans. While Pilut and Wilson have seen limited action, Asplund’s demotion is a bit surprising. Of every player sent down so far for their team’s bye week, none have played as many NHL games this season as Asplund’s 28. Yet, apparently the Sabres do not feel that he has earned the week off.
- The Chicago Blackhawks announced they have assigned forward Dylan Sikura to the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. The 24-year-old had a more successful run with Chicago this year as he scored his first NHL goal and three points in nine games. He’ll continue to work on his game in Rockford where he has nine goals and 16 points in 22 games.
- The New Jersey Devils announced they have assigned three players to their AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Devils, including goaltender Cory Schneider and forwards Michael McLeod and Jesper Boqvist. It will be Boqvist’s first trip to the AHL as he made the New Jersey squad directly out of Sweden.
- The Edmonton Oilers announced they are sending injured defenseman Matt Benning to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL on a conditioning stint. The 25-year-old blueliner has been out with a head injury since Dec. 1. The team has been extra cautious with Benning as its his second head injury this season. With the Oilers off until Jan. 29, Benning’s best chance of getting game experience is with the Condors, who have four games coming up this week. Benning has appeared in just 24 games this season, averaging just 13:42 of ice time.
Nearly the entire league is in action tonight on a busy Thursday that will see 13 games in the NHL. Sidney Crosby is back and ready to challenge the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, while Peter DeBoer will be behind the Vegas Golden Knights bench for the first time when they take on the Ottawa Senators. As all of these teams prepare for the night’s action, we’ll keep track of any minor moves.
- Late last night the Montreal Canadiens sent Matthew Peca to the minor leagues, returning him just a few days after activating him from injured reserve. Peca has played in five games for the Canadiens this season but is still looking for his first point.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled Matiss Kivlenieks and Adam Clendening from the minor leagues, sending Veini Vehvilainen back down. With a home game scheduled against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, Columbus will have Kivlenieks serve as the backup to Elvis Merzlikins.
- Max Comtois and Isac Lundestrom have been sent to the AHL by the Anaheim Ducks, who have a game tonight and tomorrow before resting through the All-Star break. The two young players will likely continue to play in the minor leagues while the NHL club enjoys more than a week off.
- After clearing waivers, Chris Stewart has been sent to the minor leagues by the Philadelphia Flyers. The team has recalled Joel Farabee in his place, bringing up the young forward again to continue his rookie season.
This page will be updated throughout the day
On Sportsnet’s “Saturday Headlines” segment last night, Elliotte Friedman made it very clear that trade talks are heating up and teams have begun issuing league-wide statements on where they stand ahead of next month’s trade deadline. The top story belongs to the New York Rangers, who have informed their competitors that they are willing to listen to offers for young goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. The team’s stance has changed in just a matter of days since recalling top goalie prospect Igor Shesterkin from the AHL, who proceeded to win his first two starts, including a 46-save performance on Thursday. Shesterkin, though an older prospect at 24, was actually an established superstar in the KHL before coming over this season and looks like the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist. Georgiev, still only 23, has performed well in three seasons with the Rangers, but doesn’t project to be the type of player that Shesterkin is, making him expendable. Both Lundqvist and Shesterkin are under contract through next season and the team cannot continuing carrying three goalies that whole time. Additionally, the Rangers have Adam Huska playing well in the AHL in his first pro season, Tyler Wall dominating the NCAA in his senior year at UMass Lowell, and 2018 second-round pick Olof Lindbom waiting in the wings in Sweden. It’s an embarrassment of riches in net for the Rangers’ organization and Georgiev looks like the odd man out.
With that said, New York will not give him away. Friedman reports that the asking price for Georgiev is a young roster forward or a pro-ready forward prospect. The Rangers are looking to add young building blocks up front and feel they can land one young asset by trading away another. Friedman stressed that the Rangers are just listening right now and will wait for a deal to their liking before moving Georgiev. The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, and San Jose Sharks are the teams rumored to be most interested in Georgiev, but are they willing to pay the asking price?
- When it comes to the Sharks, the answer may be no. Friedman reports that the Sharks have let it be known that they are not willing to move any core pieces this season. Friedman cites the 2014-15 campaign, when San Jose last missed the playoffs, as management resisted a tear-down in that year as well and ended up going to the Stanley Cup Final the next season. The Sharks have many good pieces in place and believe they can be contenders again in 2020-21, so they will only entertain trade offers for impending free agents this season. Defenseman Brenden Dillon is a name that is very much in the rumor mill, while fellow blue liners Tim Heed and Radim Simek and forward Melker Karlsson will also be for sale. It remains to be seen whether the Sharks would be willing to move future Hall of Famers Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau or backup goalie Aaron Dell. Moving forward, the Sharks will have to address their issues in net, so perhaps the one exception to their rule about only moving rentals this season could be a deal a top prospect for a new goalie, but they could wait until the off-season to make a move.
- Fans of the Montreal Canadiens don’t want their team to wait any longer to make a trade. The Habs are 2-7-1 in their past ten games and currently in 13th in the Eastern Conference, seven points back of a playoff spot with more games played than all but one of the teams ahead of them in the wild card chase. It seems like all hope is lost for this season, but Friedman reports that the team won’t be making a move any time soon. GM Marc Bergevin is being careful with his next steps, especially when his job could be on the line. He has told potential trade partners that he will wait until after the team’s pre-All-Star break meetings to make a move. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are about to play four games in six nights, during which suitors can see more from potential trade chips, but with those players exposed to the risk of potential injury as well. Montreal will have their “bye week” leading up All-Star weekend, giving Bergevin and company plenty of time to discuss their options, but there is no telling how the trade market could change in the meantime. Eventually, the team will make a decision on their direction in the coming weeks, but there is no expectation as to what that might be. Some have speculated that they could play it safe, opting to deal expiring contracts like grinders Nate Thompson, Dale Weise, and Matthew Peca and recent additions Ilya Kovalchuk and Marco Scandella. Others believe that the team is eyeing a complete rebuild and could move Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Drouin, or Jeff Petry or even ask Carey Price and Shea Weber if they would like to move on. Only time will tell, but that time will come a little bit later than some have hoped.
The Red Wings picked up their 12th win of the season on Friday night (albeit against the Senators), while the injury-riddled Penguins won their 13th game since the beginning of December alone and miraculously have the most points in the league since Sidney Crosby went down with an injury. Two of just six teams in action last night, both Detroit and Pittsburgh will take a seat tonight while 22 other teams hit the ice. They return to action on Sunday as two of just twelve teams, as the NHL has just 20 games scheduled from Friday night through Sunday in a relatively quiet weekend. With substantial off-time for many teams, look for the focus to instead be on roster transactions as teams prepare for the coming week. Keep up with all of the action right here:
- Late last night (or this morning on the east coast), the Vegas Golden Knights made a swap up front. The team announced that Nicolas Roy had been reassigned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, with Keegan Kolesar promoted to replace him. Roy has been a competent part-time player for the Knights this season, recording five points in eleven games, but Vegas is clearly looking for a different type of presence in bringing up Kolesar. The hard-hitting winger has just ten points on the season in the minors but brings a valuable physical element. However, Vegas timed the recall well if they’re hoping to see a little offense, as Kolesar scored his first two goals of the season with the Wolves just last night. This would be Kolesar’s NHL debut if he does draw into the lineup on this recall.
- CapFriendly reports that the San Jose Sharks also made a move late last night, sending rookie forward Joachim Blichfeld back to the AHL. Blichfeld had only been recalled the day before, but fortunately it is a short walk from the Sharks’ locker room to the Barracuda’s. The Danish winger has been a point-per-game player in the AHL this year, but has been held off the score sheet in two NHL games.
- Yet another Pacific Division team has made a move, though this one occurring this morning, as the Vancouver Canucks have announced the demotion of forward Zack MacEwen. The big, 23-year-old winger has the size and ability to be a difference-maker and has proved as much in the AHL over the last few years, but since the beginning of last season, he has been held to just one goal and three points in a dozen games with the Canucks. He will continue to be a top depth option from the Utica Comets, but will have a hard time finding a full-time role in Vancouver without more consistent production.
- The Washington Capitals have reassigned a healthy Christian Djoos to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Djoos, who received a $1.25MM salary in arbitration this summer, has nevertheless been relegated to the minors for much of the year, mostly as a cap-saving measure. Djoos has played in just two games with the Capitals this year after skating in more than 100 since the start of the 2017-18 season. The move leaves Washington with just six defensemen on the roster for the time being, further proving that Djoos’ experience and AHL production this season will not be enough to keep on the league-leaders’ roster this year.
- The Laval Rocket, farm team to the Montreal Canadiens, have come to terms on a contract with defenseman Evan McEneny for the remainder of the year. McEneny played ten games on a PTO with Laval prior to his status with the team becoming official. The former Vancouver Canucks prospect was a productive AHL defenseman with the Utica Comets over the past three seasons and is deserving of a pro contract.
- With MacKenzie Blackwood out with an upper-body injury, the Devils have recalled goaltender Evan Cormier from Binghamton of the AHL. Cormier has split the season between the AHL and ECHL and will likely only serve as the backup to Louis Domingue until Blackwood returns. To make room on the roster, Ben Street was transferred to IR.
- The San Jose Sharks have recalled forward Lukas Radil from the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, according to CapFriendly. The 29-year-old has a goal and five points in eight games with the Barracuda after failing to register a point in 14 contests with the Sharks.
- The New York Islanders announced they have recalled defenseman Sebastian Aho from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. Aho was initally recalled when defenseman Adam Pelech went down with an injury and then sent down on Thursday as the team wasn’t playing again until Saturday. Now he’s back and he’ll serve as an extra defenseman. Just an hour later, Aho was assigned back to Bridgeport. Go figure.
- The Arizona Coyotes announced that they have recalled goaltender Ivan Prosvetov from the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL, while assigning defenseman Kyle Capobianco to Tucson. Prosvetov’s recall suggests that Arizona still needs a backup to Adin Hill, while the team hopes one of their starting netminders will get healthy. Obviously, they are not ready yet. The 20-year-old has fared quite well in his first pro season as he has a 2.38 GAA and a .931 save percentage in 15 appearances. Capobianco has one goal in seven games for the Coyotes.
- Canadiens head coach Claude Julien told reporters, including TSN’s John Lu (Twitter link) that winger Paul Byron has suffered a setback as he works his way back from a knee injury and that he has yet to resume skating. Originally scheduled to be back several weeks ago, Julien acknowledged that winger Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia are now both likely to return before Byron but that those two won’t be back until after the All-Star Game.
It may come as no surprise, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have made it known around the league that they would like to trade Alex Galchenyuk according to Pierre LeBrun on last night’s edition of Insider Trading for TSN. Galchenyuk was only acquired last offseason in the Phil Kessel trade, but hasn’t found a fit in the Penguins’ top-six.
Bob McKenzie on the same panel notes once again that the Penguins’ priority is finding that top-six forward (even if that’s not what Galchenyuk will bring back at this point) in order to replace Jake Guentzel. McKenzie also suggests that Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is not necessarily only looking at the rental market.
- Louis Domingue played in last night’s 6-3 loss for the New Jersey Devils, meaning the Tampa Bay Lightning are getting an extra draft pick. The conditional seventh-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for Domingue earlier this season will now transfer hands thanks to the goaltender playing in his seventh NHL game for the Devils.
- Head coach Claude Julien told reporters including Eric Engels of Sportsnet that the Montreal Canadiens are sending Brendan Gallagher for more testing to see why he is having headaches. It apparently could be related to a virus, but the team will not take a chance if it has any connection to the concussion that he only just returned from.