The NHL All-Star Skills Competition is scheduled for this evening, and though Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon have both pulled out due to illness and injury there are still an incredible amount of talented players taking part. Most notable however may be the final entrant in the fastest skater competition: Kendall Coyne. A member of the US Women’s National Team, Coyne will take MacKinnon’s place after the Colorado Avalanche forward suffered a foot injury this week. The Olympic gold medalist is known for her speed and posted a 14.226 yesterday during event testing according to Emily Kaplan of ESPN. Though that wouldn’t have been enough to dethrone Connor McDavid last year, it would have put her ahead of Zach Werenski, Noah Hanifin and Josh Bailey in the competition. We’ll see what Coyne can do tonight, along with the rest of the competitors:
The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement Metropolitan captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.
The full rosters are as follows:
*Denotes team captain
One final skater spot on each roster has yet to be announced, as it will be determined by the “Last Man In” fan ballot, a concept borrowed from Major League Baseball. The format of the current All-Star Game, which requires one representative from each team on these smaller 3-on-tournament rosters, was bound to cause some confusion with the initial selections. Seven top-twenty scorers were not selected – Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Leon Draisaitl, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Phil Kessel, and Gabriel Landeskog – and several will inevitably remain out of All-Star participation even after the fan ballot additions. Morgan Rielly, the league’s top-scoring defenseman, and Mark Giordano, enjoying an elite season on both sides of the puck, are two surprising omissions on the blue line. Several of the league’s top goalies are also going to miss out, ineligible for the fan ballot, including Ben Bishop, Frederik Andersen, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The “Last Man In” will be an intriguing new addition to the All-Star process, with nominees to be named shortly, but more than a few notable names will be left out regardless. Meanwhile, the health of players like Price and Chabot for Team Atlantic and Hall for Team Metropolitan will bear watching, as those players may opt to skip the All-Star festivities, opening up more players to selection.
With more and more rumors surfacing that many teams may consider handing out offer sheets this summer when a number of intriguing game-changing restricted free agents will be out there, one team that might have to worry more than anyone will be the salary-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning. The team will have quite a few cap issues this offseason, including a number of unrestricted defensive free agents in Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi as well as multiple restricted free agents, including star center Brayden Point.
The fear is that a team might take advantage of Tampa Bay’s situation and make Point an offer that the Lightning would have trouble matching as they will be forced to make significant adjustments for the next several years with all the big-name players they have. However, The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) interviewed general manager Julien BriseBois about many topics, but the GM believes that offer sheets aren’t being utilized amongst NHL teams for a reason.
“I’m really not concerned at all about offer sheets,” BriseBois said. “I don’t see it happening. The way it’s set up, there’s no point in making an offer sheet unless you think you’re going to get the player. And teams match. You’re not going to let go of the good young players that are going to be good for your team for many years to come. So I don’t see it.”
BriseBois also pointed out that negotiations with Point will not begin until after the season and even if a team was able to get Point to sign an offer sheet, he believes that the team would have the time needed to move around pieces to retain Point.
- Mark Zwolinski of The Star writes that Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said that there is no rush when it comes to getting back goaltender Frederik Andersen, who is out with a groin injury. Andersen, who has played more minutes than any goaltender in the league so far in the past two years, is expected to work out with goaltending coach Steve Briere on Tuesday and could be cleared for practice on Wednesday, but whether he plays on Thursday afternoon or Saturday isn’t important to the coach. “Let’s make it clear, there’s no plan,” Babcock said.
- Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports writes that Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy seems unlikely to play in Tuesday’s Winter Classic after not practicing Monday. If McAvoy misses Tuesday’s game, that will be the 23rd game that he has missed this season, which is starting to look like a pattern as he also missed 19 games in his rookie campaign last season. Haggerty suggests that if he continues to show an inability to stay on the ice, that could affect the big contract that many people expect McAvoy will get this offseason when he hits restricted free agency. He’s been compared to Drew Doughty, but Doughty has never missed more than six games in a season and has played a full 82-game schedule five times in his career.
- MLive’s Ansar Khan writes that the Detroit Red Wings are close to getting back veteran Darren Helm and he could be back as early as Wednesday. The forward has been out since Nov. 17 with a shoulder injury. The 31-year-old has just one goal this season in 20 games after a 13-goal season a year ago.
When one national writer connects a contending team with a trade candidate, it’s simply speculation. When three link the two in the span of a few days, there is usually something to it. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Boston Bruins could be a possible destination for Los Angeles Kings veteran center Jeff Carter in his latest “31 Thoughts” segment. The same day, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa published an entire piece on Carter’s ideal fit in Boston. His colleague, Craig Custance, also wrote about how the best blueprint for a rebuild in L.A. could be to emulate the Bruins, who recouped picks and young players in 2015 by trading away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, but largely leaving their core intact. This time around, could Carter be in Lucic’s shoes with the Bruins and Kings swapping roles? It’s looking like a real possibility.
The logic behind a Carter deal is obvious for the Kings. L.A. sits in last place in the NHL, with just 24 points through 33 games. The team is far older than they would like to be given their struggles and, as Custance suggests, would benefit greatly from moving out a handful of veterans to inject youth and potential into the roster along with a solid core of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. It is no surprise that TSN’s most recent Trade Bait list features Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin at No. 2, Carter at No. 5, and Alec Martinez at No. 16. Although Carter, still a capable offensive player, has three years remaining on his contract beyond this season at a remarkably reasonable $5.27MM cap hit and even lower salary, he is also 33 years old and is unlikely to improve in the years it could take for L.A. to return to the postseason. The Kings would be able to add some impressive young pieces in exchange for Carter, kick-starting their rebuild. TSN’s Frank Servalli warns that Carter could use the threat of retirement to decide on his destination, but he would be unlikely to turn down the opportunity to end his career with a contender like Boston.
However, does the deal make sense for the Bruins? Obviously, the first aspect worth noting is Boston’s depth down the middle. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, while aging themselves, are still playing at an elite level and are both signed long-term. Adding Carter would give the Bruins three centers age 32 or older signed through at least the 2020-21 season. The Bruins would have the gauge the asking price on Carter against the fact that he would most likely be their third-line center. Yet, this alone doesn’t rule out a Carter trade. Shinzawa notes that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, while improving, is not yet ready for prime time match-ups as the anchor of his own line. Carter would be a very helpful addition in the short-term, especially as the Bruins square off against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning and their equally impressive depth down the middle. Carter playing alongside a young winger like Ryan Donato or Danton Heinen could be a dangerous combo this season and beyond. If and when Forsbacka Karlsson – or Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, or Jakub Lauko – looks ready to take on a regular role over the next few years, the right-shooting Carter could also slide to the wing, where the Bruins have yet to identify a long-term option next to Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
The Bruins could find a way to make a talent like Carter’s work, but the cost will likely dictate whether or not a deal gets done. If Carter is playing the Lucic role in Custance’s proposed role reversal, the Kings would likely land a strong if unspectacular return. Lucic had just one year remaining on his contract as opposed to Carter’s three, but was younger and healthier and expected to play a top-line role in L.A. The Bruins received a first-round pick, established backup goaltender Martin Jones (who they flipped to San Jose), and standout AHL defenseman Colin Miller in exchange for Lucic. The Kings don’t need a young goaltender, nor do the Bruins have much to offer in that department. Boston will also be hesitant to move a first-round pick after forfeiting that pick last year in the Rick Nash trade. However, the Kings need scoring and the Bruins have a plethora of young forwards. Heinen could fill the Jones role of an established young NHLer, although the Kings could instead ask for Donato or Anders Bjork, while one of the team’s prospect centers could be substituted for the first-rounder and Jeremy Lauzon or Jakub Zboril could play the part of Miller. Anything more than that package of three talented young players would probably be a deal-breaker for GM Don Sweeney and company, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the combination gets a deal done.
With a seemingly sensible fit on both sides and several major pundits pedaling the rumor, this isn’t the last of Carter-to-Boston speculation. However, the Bruins have also been linked to Carter’s teammate Tyler Toffoli, the Minnesota Wild’s Charlie Coyle, and the New York Rangers’ Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello, yet no move has been made. There is no guarantee that Boston is looking to make a move right now, but as the season wears on these names will only continue to pop up until the Bruins inevitably make a move in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
The Edmonton Oilers haven’t had much success when it comes to trades in recent years, but the team may be able to plug some of their offensive woes with a trade. The Athletic’s Allan Mitchell (subscription required) writes that the Oilers are actually overloaded in left-handed defensive depth throughout their system and might be able to use that depth as a way to send off for some veteran help at the wing that might allow the team to give extra development time to Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, who both were sent down to Bakersfield this afternoon.
Mitchell writes the team is loaded on the left side with two top-four players, including Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse and still have Kris Russell who is playing on the right side. After that, the team has Ethan Bear as well as a host of left-handed defensemen in Bakersfield, including Caleb Jones, Ryan Stanton, William Lagesson, Keegan Lowe and Kevin Gravel. That’s a lot of options for a team, should they consider moving someone like Russell, Lagesson or Jones to add some depth at some point this winter.
- Curtis Palshenka of the Mercury News reports that San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who has missed the last three game with a head injury, is starting to feel better and may be able to return Sunday for their game against the Calgary Flames. He still needs to go through more testing, but remains positive. Hertl has been a key piece to the Sharks’ first line, including Logan Couture and Timo Meier. The 24-year-old is producing a point a game so far this year with five goals and nine assists in 14 games.
- One change the new Los Angeles Kings head coach Willie Desjardins intends to implement is to cut down shift times. Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times writes that the coach intends to cut all shifts by 10 seconds, so that lines are only on the ice for a little over 40 seconds. “If you look at teams’ regular-season shifts and then look at their playoff shifts, their playoff shifts are always shorter,” he said, “and that’s because the intensity of the game goes up. And I think we have to bring our playoff game right now. I think we have to get our shifts shorter and I think that’s something our guys have to buy into, to be successful.” Desjardins also adds that he wants to cut down the ATOI of both Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, who both lead the team in ice time at their respective positions.
“This is a critical time in our season and our results to date have fallen well below our expectations. With that in mind, this was a difficult decision but one we feel was necessary,” said Blake. “We have a great deal of respect and appreciation for John’s time with our organization. He was a key part of our past success, and we have tremendous gratitude for his many contributions.”
Despite picking up a 4-1 victory Saturday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the victory didn’t do anything to allow Stevens to keep his job as the team remained 4-8-1 in the team’s first 13 games, giving them the worst record in league with the Florida Panthers the only other team that has nine points (although they have played two less games). Stevens, in just his second year as head coach of the team, took the team to the playoffs last year as the fourth-seed in the Pacific Division, but were swept in the first-round of the playoffs as the Vegas Golden Knights exposed their lack of speed.
Los Angeles responded by adding 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk through free agency this offseason and was expected to make a renewed run for a Stanley Cup title with the likes 30-somethings Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty (he’s actually just 28), Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Nate Thompson, Dion Phaneuf and Alec Martinez. The team was expecting some of their young players to step up, but players such as Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have struggled under Stevens’ tenure and haven’t developed into the goal scorers that everyone had hoped for. The team also has been without Quick, their star goaltender, for much of the season and there is no word on how much time he might miss with his most recent injury. Throw in the lack of development of some of their prospects and the team was heading down the wrong path with many of their veterans under contract for three of four more years.
Desjardins, who has 20+ years of coaching experience, has been acting as Team Canada’s men’ head coach, including leading the team in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. He served as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons between 2014 and 2017, compiling a disappointing 109-110-27 record. He also led Team Canada to gold at the Spengler Cup in December of 2017. Desjardins also served eight years as head coach in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers where he won two championships in eight seasons there.
The team also released fired assistant coach Don Nachbaur from his duties, who served as the team’s assistant since last season. The team has brought in current German National Team coach and former Kings player Marco Sturm. The team did retain assistant coach Dave Lowry.
One has to wonder what Stevens chances will be to get another head coaching position. He served as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006 through 2009, reaching the Eastern Conference finals once and a second playoff appearance. He has a combined record of 171-148-43.
Helene Elliott was the first to report the coaching change.
The Toronto Maple Leafs ended up landing the biggest fish of free agency in John Tavares, but long before the Tavares sweepstakes even began, the team was linked to Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Doughty, a Toronto area native, ended up signing an eight-year, $88MM extension early this off-season, ending any thoughts that he might be a free agent in the summer of 2019. So where did the homecoming rumors come from? Doughty has now admitted, via TSN, that he never seriously considered moving on from L.A. Instead, he floated the idea of departing the Kings for the Maple Leafs as a negotiation tactic. Doughty negotiated his latest deal without an agent and, in order to ensure he wasn’t taken advantage of, made sure he had some leverage on his side. The rumors that he might leave if able to test the free agent market surely encouraged the Kings to give him what he wanted on his latest extension, the largest contract for a defenseman in NHL history.
- Another player who has no interest in signing with the Maple Leafs, at least not at their current offer, is restricted free agent forward William Nylander. Toronto and their young forward seem to be at an impasse in contract negotiations and the December 1st deadline, after which Nylander would be prohibited from playing in the NHL this season, is starting to look like a real possibility. Should that come to fruition, Nylander would likely turn to the KHL for his paycheck this season. Nylander’s rights are held by Avangard Omsk, currently led by former NHL head coach Bob Hartley, who recently spoke to TSN about his excitement about the possibility of having Nylander on the roster this season. Avangard already added Cody Franson, Alexei Emelin, David Desharnais, and Kris Versteeg this off-season and could really make waves in the KHL by adding Nylander to the mix. Nylander is currently skating in his native Sweden and could make the short trip over to Russia rather than the trip back across the Atlantic this season, if talks continue to go poorly with the Maple Leafs.
- Staying in the KHL, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Andrei Altybarmakyan is on the move. The 20-year-old winger was traded today, swapped by SKA St. Petersburg to HK Sochi for fellow young forward Ivan Larichev, the league reports. Both Altybarmakyan and Larichev are fringe KHLers with limited experience at the highest level, but Sochi appears to be the long-term winner in this deal, acquiring the 2017 third-round pick. There has been no indication that Altybarmakyan is heading over to North America any time soon and could continue to develop into a bona fide starter for Sochi down the road.
The St. Louis Blues were rolling along just fine a year ago, but when winger Jaden Schwartz went down with an injury on Dec. 9th and missed six weeks with a lower-body injury, the team fell apart and had trouble finding its offense even after he came back as they found themselves outside a playoff spot.
Now, the team is in the exact same situation as Schwartz took a puck off the same leg he injured last year from his own teammate, Vladimir Tarasenko. While this injury is not considered to be as serious, the team feels more confident that they can survive without the winger this season with their improved depth, according to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.
The scribe points out that the team used Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladimir Sobotka in their top-six after last year’s Schwartz injury and the team’s third line featured Ivan Barbashev, Magnus Paajarvi and Patrik Berglund, which wasn’t a very deep team. Four of those players aren’t even with the team anymore.
This year, the team moves Sammy Blais into the top-six and still boast several key players on the third line, including Jordan Kyrou, Alex Steen and Tyler Bozak and that’s not including 19-year-old Robert Thomas. With the depth much deeper, the Schwartz injury shouldn’t have as significant effect as it did a year ago.
- Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson, currently sitting out 20 games for a preseason hit against St. Louis Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist pending appeal, was asked Sunday whether he intends to change the way he plays. “Yeah, for sure,” Wilson told The Athletic’s Chris Kuk. “The hitting aspect of the game is definitely changing a little bit and I have to be smart out there and I have to play within the rules.”
- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty took much of the blame as he said he “failed” in making a difference during the team’s 5-1 embarrassing loss to the Ottawa Senators Saturday as well as their 2-2-1 start. However, Fox Sports’ Jon Rosen writes that Doughty has hardly failed the team as no goals have been scored when Doughty has been on the ice this season and had a plus-1 rating in their loss to the Senators.
- The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reports that the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced that defenseman Reece Scarlett will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. The 25-year-old had a strong camp with Dallas and was expected to have a big season with the Texas Stars.
In a spectacular interview with Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson, San Jose Sharks defenseman opens up about his exit from the Ottawa Senators and what exactly went on between him and management over the last few months. Karlsson confirms that a deal was extremely close at the trade deadline—though doesn’t give any hint on who would have acquired him—and discusses the contract offer that the Senators did make when he became eligible for an extension.
Yeah they did [make an offer]. They did.
I don’t think it ever got to the point where I had an option to sign anything, it never even got close to that. And even if I would have signed, they probably would have traded me anyway and I would have been somewhere else.
The Senators traded Karlsson, who was their captain at the time, on September 13th just as training camp was set to open and claimed that it was necessary for the rebuild that they are beginning. The team received a large package of assets including Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo, while the Sharks were happy to add Karlsson to a defense corps that already included Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Karlsson also spoke a little bit on the off-ice drama between his family and that of former teammate Mike Hoffman, explaining that no one else in the dressing room knew about the problems between them. Senators GM Pierre Dorion had claimed that the dressing room was “broken” at times last season, something that also needed to be addressed this summer.
Though the trade took quite a long time to actually be finalized, it seems as though—from Karlsson’s point of view at least—the Senators had made the decision to move on from their franchise defenseman months ago. A two-time Norris Trophy winner and one of the most dynamic players to ever play for Ottawa, he is still set to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason and could be out of the Senators’ price range altogether. Karlsson has been rumored to be after a Drew Doughty-like extension for his next deal, a contract that is worth $88MM over eight seasons. The Sharks can’t actually sign him to an eight-year deal until after this trade deadline given the current CBA, though they can certainly discuss it with him or ink a seven-year pact.
Before July 1st, few people outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs front office were too concerned about the contract status of defenseman Jake Gardiner, who enters the final year of his current deal in 2018-19. Then Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan McDonagh, and Ryan Ellis all preemptively signed long, expensive extensions. Just like that, the situation for Gardiner changed completely.
Looking ahead to next summer, there is now an argument to be made that Gardiner is the second-best defenseman on the unrestricted free agent market as it currently stands. That was far from true earlier this summer. He has gone from an afterthought to an Erik Karlsson consolation prize. While the free agent class features many prominent veteran defenders – Jay Bouwmeester, Anton Stralman, Marc Methot, and Alexander Edler – it lacks many long-term pieces behind Karlsson and Gardiner. The Winnipeg Jets’ Tyler Myers and the Vegas Golden Knights’ Nate Schmidt would perhaps offer Gardiner some competition, if either unexpectedly reaches the market, but there is a strong case to be made that Gardiner would be the superior target.
The real question is whether or not Gardiner actually makes it to free agency. While nothing has changed about Gardiner’s value or ability since July 1st, his relative cost has shifted dramatically. With a potentially loaded free agent market for defensemen, Gardiner would have been taking a risk by turning down a fair extension from the Leafs to pursue other offers that may not have come once the smoke cleared from the major signings. Now that he almost certainly will be considered one of the top available names, Toronto may have to pay a premium to keep him from testing the waters, if they can. By the time Gardiner finishes next season, his career games played and offensive production will likely be superior to those currently of a player like McDonagh, who just signed a seven-year extension worth $6.75MM AAV. Granted, Gardiner is not the all-around player that McDonagh is, but given his continuously improving play and the boost of being a top available younger player, it is a fair frame of reference. For example, look at the four-year, $18.2MM contract that Calvin de Haan – considered by many to be the best defenseman in this current free agent class – signed with the Carolina Hurricanes this summer despite missing the majority of last season due to injury. The market sets the price and scarcity drives up price.
So will Toronto ante up to keep Gardiner? The Maple Leafs have to be careful with their long-term salary cap management. The team still owes William Nylander a contract this summer, as well as extensions for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner by next off-season. Those are the three names that everyone is focused on when it comes to Toronto. Yet, in addition to Gardiner, other impending free agents that the Leafs would like to keep include forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Josh Leivo, defensemen Travis Dermott, Andreas Borgman, and Connor Carrick, goaltender Garret Sparks, and even incoming imports Par Lindholm and Igor Ozhiganov who could win spots on the team this season. This is the final year that Toronto can take advantage of this massive group of bargain players, all of whom are paid $1.3MM or less and due raises. Not to mention, signing Gardiner and the other blue liners and losing veteran Ron Hainsey will still keep a massive hole open on the right side of the defense that the team will need to continue to search to fill.
The numbers simply don’t seem to add up, at least not very neatly. It would seem difficult for the Maple Leafs to pay Gardiner his market value, extend all of their other key impending free agents, fill the gap on the right side of the top pair next to Morgan Rielly, and still somehow end up under the salary cap next season. The story line to watch this season, as the John Tavares era begins, is whether the Jake Gardiner era is ending. Another career year for the capable defenseman could leave the Leafs without much choice but to let him walk next off-season and continue to work with a pieced together blue line. Do they trade him at the deadline? Do they trade a young core forward to replace him? Or instead do they somehow move salary to fit Gardiner in at any cost? Find out in 2018-19.