With the quarter pole of the season in the rear view mirror, teams have had plenty of time to evaluate their rosters and early performances and changes are starting to be made. That has been the overarching story of the week, as some clubs made moves – both long- and short-term – while others are preparing to do so.
Flames Fire Bill Peters: Well, not technically. Calgary accepted the resignation of their head coach, who was mired in scandal following an investigation into allegations of racist comments made while serving as an AHL head coach in the Chicago Blackhawks organization and further accusations of physical abuse while head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. The league will continue its investigation, but Peters days as an NHL coach are likely over regardless. While the veteran coach offered an apology for the incident in Rockford, the victim of the attack, Akim Aliu, called it “misleading, insincere and concerning”, which was likely the nail in his coffin. Geoff Ward takes over as interim head coach for the Flames, an under-performing team that had enough concerns of their own without dealing with off-ice controversy.
Bruins Extend Coyle And Wagner: The league-leading Boston Bruins signed a pair of local products to contract extensions, inking 2019 trade acquisition Charlie Coyle to a six-year, $31.5MM deal and 2018 free agent addition Chris Wagner to a three-year, $4.05MM deal. The 27-year-old Coyle, who won over the home crowd with a dominant playoff run last year, is now in place to likely succeed David Krejci and/or Patrice Bergeron as a top-six center for the Bruins, unless the versatile forward shifts to the right wing long-term instead. Meanwhile, the Bruins have always shown a willingness to invest in their fourth line and clearly feel Wagner can continue to be an effective checker and penalty killer for years to come. The team can now solely turn their attention to re-signing Torey Krug with these deals complete.
New Jersey Willing To Move Hall: The 2019-20 season has not gone as planned for the New Jersey Devils, who added considerable talent this off-season but have yet to see the on-ice impact. As a result, 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, the top impending free agent in this summer’s class, has become the most talked-about name on the trade market. The team is officially listening to offers, with most pundits expecting that he will be traded and perhaps sooner rather than later. Hall has had the misfortune of never playing for a true contender thus far in his career, but could wind up participating in a playoff run this year as a highly sought-after rental target. His former team, the Edmonton Oilers, are considered a possible landing spot, as are the Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens, and defending champion St. Louis Blues. More teams are sure to be in the running as the Hall sweepstakes heat up.
Dumoulin Out Eight Weeks: The Pittsburgh Penguins suffered yet another injury blow on Saturday as defenseman Brian Dumoulin sustained an ankle injury that required surgery and will leave him sidelined for eight weeks. The Penguins lead the NHL in man-games lost this year and the loss of Dumoulin is a major blow. The underrated defenseman is one of the premier shutdown defenders in the league and allows for pair mate Kris Letang to truly play his game. With Justin Schultz already out, not to mention Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad, and Erik Gudbranson recently traded, Pittsburgh will be shorthanded on the blue line for a while.
Puljujarvi, Honka Not Playing This Season: The December 1 5:00PM ET deadline came and went and restricted free agents Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers and Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars had not been signed. As a result, neither young Finn can play in the NHL this year. Both the Oilers and Stars have been trying to find a trade partner for their disgruntled young players, but to no avail. Neither team was willing to give their RFA away, even if that meant potentially not being able to trade them until the off-season. Both Puljujarvi and Honka have yet to live up to expectations in the NHL, but are playing well in Finland this season. This is likely not the last we’ve seen of either player in North America.