- The Ottawa Senators have recalled Christian Wolanin from the minor leagues, sending Christian Jaros back to take his place. The swap gives them a different option for their trip to the west coast, which starts tomorrow with a game against the San Jose Sharks.
- The New Jersey Devils have sent both Jesper Boqvist and Josh Jacobs back to the AHL. Boqvist, 21, has played 35 games this season but has just four goals and zero assists. He’ll need to find his game again in the minors if he ever wants to be an impact player for the Devils.
- Jonas Johansson has been assigned to the Rochester Americans once again, leaving the Buffalo Sabres after two weeks. The big goaltender now has six games under his belt at the NHL level, with many more likely coming in the future.
- The Anaheim Ducks have returned goaltender Anthony Stolarz to AHL San Diego. He was recalled earlier this week to serve as the backup while Ryan Miller dealt with the flu but now that he has returned, Stolarz can return to his role as the starter for the Gulls. Anaheim has also returned defenseman Simon Benoit to San Diego, per the AHL’s Transactions Page. He was recalled for the second time this season on Wednesday but has yet to see NHL action.
- With Cody Ceci being activated off IR, the Maple Leafs have loaned defenseman Timothy Liljegren to the AHL’s Marlies. The 20-year-old got into 11 NHL games with Toronto, recording an assist while logging just over 10 minutes a night in ice time.
Prior to their bye week, Penguins winger Nick Bjugstad had been skating on his own and had even traveled with the team on its recent road trip, leading to some speculation that he was nearing a return. However, he hasn’t been skating since then, yet head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters, including Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that Bjugstad hasn’t suffered a setback but declined to go into further detail. The initial timeline for his return was a minimum of eight weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery. This is week nine since then and even if this is just planned rest and not anything of concern, it certainly seems like Bjugstad is going to be out for a while longer.
Other injury notes from around the league:
- Avalanche winger Colin Wilson has missed nearly three months with a lower-body injury and it doesn’t sound like he’s coming back anytime soon. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports (Twitter link) that it looks doubtful that he will return to play this season. The 30-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July and considering that he has only played in nine games in 2019-20, he’ll be hard-pressed to get his current $2.6MM salary on his next deal.
- Oilers winger James Neal was a late scratch on Friday due to a foot injury and is doubtful to play in Saturday’s rematch of the Battle of Alberta against Calgary, notes Postmedia’s Jim Matheson. While his goal production has slipped as of late (he has scored in only one of Edmonton’s last 13 games – though that one game saw him record a hat trick), he still sits third on the team in goals with 19.
- Senators defenseman Christian Wolanin has been cleared for contact as he works his way back from shoulder surgery, notes Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch. He was injured just before training camp got underway and has yet to play this season. Ottawa plans to assign him to Belleville of the AHL on Wednesday and should make his season debut a week or so after that. With the Sens likely to move a blueliner or two by the trade deadline, there’s a good chance that Wolanin’s AHL time will be limited.
- A difficult season for Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte is only getting worse. The team has announced that Motte, who has already missed 27 games this season with a broken foot, is now set to miss four-to-six weeks with a shoulder injury. When Motte returns in March, he likely will have missed another 15-20 games, meaning more than half of the 2019-20 season will have been lost to injury. Even when the young forward has been healthy, he has recorded just five points in 24 games. It’s been a year to forget for Motte.
- The same can be said for the Buffalo Sabres and forward Kyle Okposo. After being sidelined for ten games earlier this season due to a concussion, head coach Ralph Krueger told the media today that a new upper-body injury is likely to keep Okposo out “weeks”. The veteran forward left Thursday night’s game early and did not return and now it seems a return to the lineup is not imminent. As Buffalo continues to falter after a hot start, Okposo’s twelve points on the year and inability to stay in the lineup are not helping the cause.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot to like as they sit in a playoff spot at the midway point of the season. While injuries have ruled the team’s first half, the team also has a lot of impressive play from members of the team. One member of the team who didn’t get much of a rating from The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor (subscription required) — Shayne Gostisbehere.
While teammate Ivan Provorov has had quite the impact season, getting A’s across the board, Gostisbehere’s final grade was a C-. For a second straight season, the 26-year-old’s offense has disappeared as he is on pace for a 23-point season. What the big problem is, however, Gostisbehere’s defense has also disappeared and his usage is starting to drop. He has averaged just 18:24, more than three minutes below his career high of two years ago. The scribe writes that there is no positive spin on the blueliner and he must find his game quickly for the Flyers’ sake.
- TSN’s Kristen Shilton reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs may be close to getting back a pair of forwards. Andreas Johnsson and Trevor Moore were both seen at Toronto’s morning optional skate. Johnsson, who has been out with a leg injury since Dec. 4, wore a non-contact jersey, while Moore, who has been out with a concussion since Dec. 23 was in a regular jersey, but hasn’t been cleared yet. “Very encouraging,” said Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe. “They were skating a little bit while we were away, so today was a positive step. Both are still in non-contact situations but just to see them around the building and around the group is a good sign.”
- The Athletic’s Graeme Nichols (subscription required) writes that the Ottawa Senators finally got an update on injured defenseman as general manager Pierre Dorion stated that Christian Wolanin, who has been out all season with a torn labrum, is targeting a return in mid to late February. Wolanin, who had surgery back on Sept. 21 and given a four-month timetable, is expected to immediately report to the Belleville Senators with the AHL once he’s been cleared to play. The 24-year-old could be with Ottawa in March if everything pans out.
Heading into this season, few would have expected the Ottawa Senators to be active buyers on the trade market. Few would have expected them to be a .500 team on November 23 as well, though. The Senators are playing well and their first substantial acquisition of the season, former New York Rangers forward Vladislav Namestnikov, has worked out nicely (although he’s currently injured). The team has been open about their desire to add more veteran pieces and, while previous reports indicated their preference was to acquire another forward, The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the team is now hoping to trade for a defenseman.
The Senators were not overly strong or deep on the blue line when the season began. Behind Thomas Chabot, it was mostly a unit composed of role players and unproven prospects. However, the situation has become even more dire due to injuries. Young Erik Brannstrom remains sidelined with a hand injury, depth defender Cody Goloubef left Friday night’s game with an undisclosed injury, Andreas Englund suffered an injury in the minors, and Christian Wolanin has yet to play this season as he returns from a shoulder injury. Nikita Zaitsev is also currently in his native Russia tending to personal matters. Garrioch writes that this left Ottawa no choice but to recall both Maxime Lajoie and Christian Jaros from the minors on Friday, leaving AHL Belleville with just two NHL prospects – first-year AHLers Lassi Thomson and Olle Alsing – and a defense corps otherwise composed of tryout players and ECHL call-ups. Clearly, Ottawa could use a blue line addition purely from a numbers perspective.
However, performance is also an issue on the blue line, particularly when it comes to scoring. Zaitsev, who is expected to return soon, has not contributed much offensively despite considerable ice time. Fellow former Maple Leaf Ron Hainsey and 2018-19 standout Dylan DeMelo have also been non-factors in the scoring department. This has left Chabot carrying the load and Mark Borowiecki contributing on offense, which has not typically been his strong suit. If the Senators are going to trade for a defenseman, they may as well target a player who can take on a regular role and assist the team offensively.
With that said, don’t expect Ottawa to target any of the big names on the rumor mill. While it would be comical for the Senators to add yet another former Toronto player, Tyson Barrie is likely not a target. Nor is New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, or Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin. The Senators will likely target upside at a low cost. Unsigned RFA Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars seems like an intriguing option, so long as they can swing a deal before the December 1st signing deadline. An impending UFA, like Namestnikov, would also make sense for the Senators, who could flip that player at the trade deadline if need be. Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson, L.A.’s Ben Hutton, and San Jose’s Radim Simek are all interesting options. Detroit’s Mike Green, who has name value but disappointing numbers so far this season, could also be a potential buy low/sell high candidate if he could turn his game around. There are plenty of options available for the Senators to make a move, but the question remains when and who.
Sept. 21: Garrioch notes that Wolanin underwent surgery on Friday. The updated injury timeline is four-to-six months.
Sept. 12: The Ottawa Senators can’t seem to escape training camp without injury. Last season Jean-Gabriel Pageau tore his Achilles during the physical testing, and today news came down that Christian Wolanin has suffered a torn labrum during an informal skate. According to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, the young defenseman will be out a minimum of four months.
Wolanin, 24, was an exciting player for the Senators coming into camp, ready to make an impact on the blueline after playing in 30 games for the team last season. The former University of North Dakota standout had 12 points in those 30 games but was a force for the Belleville Senators in the AHL. Even with the additions of Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey, the Senators still could have used Wolanin in a full-time role this season but will now have to find a different option.
This certainly doesn’t end the young defenseman’s career, but it will steal a good chunk of development time in the NHL. Luckily for the Senators he is under contract for another season after 2019-20, or he likely would qualify for Group VI unrestricted free agency next summer. Wolanin has just 40 games under his belt so far and will turn 25 in March.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning preparing for another run to challenge for a Stanley Cup, one of the team’s top players remains unsigned in Brayden Point, who continues to sit out with a number of top restricted free agent forwards, including Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Several defensemen, including Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Columbus’ Zach Werenski.
However, there has been no end in sight for any of these players and there remains no timeline as all of these players are waiting for the first one to sign and set the market, according to Tampa Bay Times’ Diana Nearhos. Most expect that the first domino to fall will be Marner with everyone signing contracts just underneath him. However, that could change if one of the others opts to sign first. Point’s deal will be an interesting one on a team that already has quite a few top-paid players, but Point, who tallied 41 goals and 92 points.
“It’s a unique marketplace,” said agent Gerry Johannson, who counts Point among his clients. “Everyone is waiting for some clarity.”
So far only two key restricted free agents have signed, both in peculiar circumstances. Jacob Trouba forced a trade to the New York Rangers before finally signing, while Carolina matched Montreal’s offer sheet to Sebastian Aho in early July. In the meantime, the wait continues.
- With the signing of Colin White, the Ottawa Senators have 10 guaranteed spots on their forward line, according to Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun. That will leave quite a training camp battle for three spots (assuming Ottawa keeps 13 forwards) between some of the team’s top prospects, including Max Veronneau, Rudolfs Balcers, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Jonathan Davidsson and Nick Paul. On defense, the team has five players already set, leaving two (or three) spots on their defense for prospects, which will include Christian Wolanin, Maxime Lajoie, Erik Brannstrom and Christian Jaros.
- One major question in Buffalo will be what role will forward prospect Victor Olofsson play next season. The 24-year-old prospect had dominant season in his first year in North America last season, tallying 30 goals and 63 points in 66 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL and scored two goals and four points in six games for the Sabres last season. The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski reports that Oloffsson is likely to start the season with the Sabres and despite the logjam at left wing, he is likely to force either Conor Sheary or Marcus Johansson to the right-wing position as both have some experience playing there. However, Olofsson will likely have to beat out both Tage Thompson and C.J. Smith to earn a spot.
The Ottawa Senators have inked one of their young restricted free agents, signing Christian Wolanin to a two-year deal. The contract is a two-way deal in the first year that will pay him $800K in the NHL and $100K in the AHL, while the second year is a one-way contract and carries a $1MM salary. Wolanin will still be a restricted free agent at the end of the deal, as long as he plays in 40 NHL games over the duration.
Wolanin, 24, played 30 games for the Senators in 2018-19, recording 12 points and generally looking quite capable at the NHL level. In the AHL he was even better, recording 31 points to actually finish the season as the highest scoring defenseman on the team despite suiting up just 40 times. That success likely has him in line for a full-time NHL role, though after signing Ron Hainsey the team could potentially lean a different way. Wolanin’s future might also depend on how well top prospect Erik Brannstrom looks in training camp, since he is still waiver-exempt.
Still, some financial stability is worth it at this point for the fourth-round pick. Wolanin took his game to the University of North Dakota for three seasons after being drafted so he is only now coming off his entry-level deal. The $1MM in year two means he’ll be owed at least that much as a qualifying offer in the summer of 2021, when he likely will be eligible for arbitration.
The Colorado Avalanche are in the enviable position of having two first-round picks this year despite making the playoffs, and one of those selections is fourth overall. The team very well could be adding top defensive prospect Bowen Byram with that spot, giving them quite the young core on the blue line along with Samuel Girard and Cale Makar. That inevitably would lead to some speculating that the Avalanche will be looking to trade another defenseman, and A.J. Haefele of BSN Denver today tweeted that he believes Tyson Barrie is “in play.”
Haefele doesn’t mention the Byram connection, and perhaps that has nothing to do with it given Barrie plays the right side. With Erik Johnson already entrenched as a leader on the team and signed long-term, Barrie might be the one to go in order to give Makar more minutes on that side and the powerplay. The 27-year old Barrie had another excellent offensive season, recording 14 goals and 59 points in 78 games.
- The Minnesota Wild have made sweeping changes to the core of their team since GM Paul Fenton took over, but one name they’re looking to keep is Jared Spurgeon. Michael Russo of The Athletic reports that Fenton and agent Eustace King met yesterday to begin talks on an extension, given the defenseman has just a single year remaining on his contract. Spurgeon is one of the game’s premiere two-way defensemen, recording solid offensive numbers while being a reliable shutdown option in his own end. Coming off a career-high 43 points any extension will be an expensive one, and likely include a substantial raise over the $5.19MM cap hit he currently carries.
- Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that the Ottawa Senators have issued qualifying offers to Cody Ceci, Christian Wolanin, Nick Paul, Colin White and Jack Rodewald, though all were expected. Ceci is still just 25 years old despite having played six seasons in the league, and is one of the more interesting players to watch on the Senators roster. He is a restricted free agent but could potentially settle for a one-year contract through arbitration and walk right into unrestricted free agency next season. His qualifying offer is $4.3MM, already a hefty contract for the Senators to swallow.
USA Hockey has announced a trio of new additions to their IIHF World Championship roster, and all three represent the next wave of NHL talent. Not only will the team bring in potential first-overall pick Jack Hughes, but newly acquired New York Rangers prospect Adam Fox is heading to Slovakia along with Ottawa Senators defenseman Christian Wolanin.
Hughes is obviously a huge addition after lighting up the U18 tournament last month, but Fox represents a very interesting situation. The 21-year old defenseman was traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Rangers just yesterday, but hasn’t officially signed his entry-level contract. While it is obviously expected to happen before the season begins, technically he still could return to Harvard for his senior season in 2019-20. Fox will be joining Brady Skjei on the Team USA roster, a potential defensive partner next season with the Rangers.
Wolanin meanwhile is a little bit older than the other two, after turning 24 in March, but also brings a little bit of NHL experience. The Senators defenseman has 40 games under his belt at the highest level, but still spent most of this season in the minor leagues with the Belleville Senators. The former University of North Dakota standout has 15 points in those first 40 NHL contests, and is expected to take on a bigger role with Ottawa next season.
The full roster is now as follows:
F Alex DeBrincat
F Jack Eichel
F Luke Glendening
F Patrick Kane
F Clayton Keller
F Chris Kreider
F Dylan Larkin
F James van Riemsdyk
F Frank Vatrano
F Colin White
F Johnny Gaudreau
F Derek Ryan
F Jack Hughes
Hughes, at just 17 years old will become the youngest player ever to suit up for Team USA at the World Championships.