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:
Though they have no bearing on the eventual winners, last season the Professional Hockey Writers Association brought back their Midseason Awards to give fans an idea of who was leading the charge around the NHL at the halfway point. Today those ballots have been tallied and the midseason trophies were given out:
Hart Trophy – Most valuable player
Norris Trophy – Best defenseman
Selke Trophy – Best defensive forward
Calder Trophy – Best rookie
Lady Byng Trophy – Sportsmanship & gentlemanly conduct
Vezina Trophy – Best goaltender
Jack Adams Award – Best coach
1. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
2. Bill Peters, Calgary Flames
3. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
GM of the Year Award
1. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames
2. Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks
3. Lou Lamoriello, New York Islanders
Rod Langway Award – Best defensive defenseman
Comeback Player of the Year Award
The NHL trade season is upon us with only seven weeks until the deadline and teams falling out of the playoff race. With that, Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required) broke down his list of 20 players who could be on the move before February 25th. At the top of the list is Artemi Panarin, who is still without a contract extension as we head into the second half of the season. The Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to make a deep Stanley Cup run and have perhaps the toughest decisions in the league with Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky set to hit unrestricted free agency.
Deeper down the list though Custance provides some details on asking prices, explaining that a deal to acquire Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings would need to start with a first-round pick while Alec Martinez might cost just a second-round pick and a good prospect. The Kings still sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division and are the only NHL team to have scored fewer than 100 goals this season. There are changes coming for Los Angeles, but in a “strong buyers market” it will be interesting to see how much they really get back for some of their trade assets.
- Last week’s Three Stars have been revealed by the NHL, with Johnny Gaudreau taking home the top honors. Gaudreau recorded 11 points in four games and has led the Calgary Flames all season. Brent Burns takes home the second star, but most interesting might be Robin Lehner in the third position. Lehner looked to be on the brink of losing his NHL career when he went unqualified by the Buffalo Sabres, but has turned things around dramatically this season with the New York Islanders. With a .927 save percentage there is good reason to believe that Lehner could be one of the top goaltending options on the market this summer after his one-year deal expires, unless the Islanders can lock him up over the next few months.
- Noah Dobson might be best known to many hockey fans for his stick exploding in overtime for Canada in the recent World Junior Championship, but he’s also a dominant defenseman and leader in the QMJHL. The Islanders prospect is on the move thanks to a junior deadline deal that will send him to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for the remainder of the season. The Huskies sent three first-round picks and a second-round pick for the right to acquire Dobson, who will give them another huge weapon on their quest for a Memorial Cup berth. The trade deadline for the OHL and WHL meanwhile passes on Thursday, meaning many more top prospects will be on the move.
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.
The London Knights must have felt a little thin on defense with Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist off playing in the World Junior Championship. The powerhouse OHL organization has added another top option to their blue line, trading for Joey Keane from the Barrie Colts. Keane himself was almost suiting up for Team USA at the tournament, but was one of the final cuts just before Christmas.
After going undrafted in his first year of eligibility, Keane was snapped up in the third round by the New York Rangers in June after putting up a solid season with Barrie. His 44 points in 62 games were impressive, but it’s Keane’s legitimate shutdown ability that intrigued most scouts. While he’s not the biggest or strongest, the Illinois native is a force in his own end with his exceptional reads, and will only strengthen what is already a dominant London blue line. The opportunity he’ll get to compete in the OHL playoffs will only help his development as he tries to jump to the professional ranks down the road.
- While the Department of Player Safety is looking more closely at a David Backes hit, they’ve already handed out punishment for a different incident last night. Dustin Byfuglien has been fined $2,500 for slashing Johnny Gaudreau in last night’s Winnipeg-Calgary game. When Gaudreau beat Byfuglien at the Calgary blue line and had a clear path for an empty-net goal to seal the win, the Jets defenseman spun and delivered a forceful slash. While he won’t serve any suspension for it, the incident will be taken into account in any future supplementary discipline. Gaudreau practiced today for Calgary.
- It seems the Boston Bruins can’t possibly have everyone healthy at the same time. After activating Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Jake Debrusk yesterday, the team has placed Charlie McAvoy on injured reserve today in order to get under the 23-man roster limit. McAvoy’s injury is only expected to keep him out a few days, but will definitely keep him out of tomorrow’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. Whether he’ll be ready for Tuesday’s Winter Classic at Notre Dame is still undetermined.
The second month of the NHL season is underway and with it comes the first iteration of TSN’s “Trade Bait” board. To no surprise, unsigned Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander tops the list. With the countdown at 28 days until the December 1st deadline for Nylander to sign and play in the NHL this season, the impasse between the two sides is desperately in need of a resolution, and with each day that goes by, a trade looks more and more likely. TSN’s Frank Seravalli notes that it was the first week of November last year when No. 1-ranked trade bait player Matt Duchene was traded away, making it entirely possible that a Nylander trade or other big name move could drop in the next few days. Joining Nylander in the top six of the list are recent rumor mill highlights Kevin Hayes of the New York Rangers and Alec Martinez and Tanner Pearson of the Los Angeles Kings, as well as summer trade bait board holdout Mats Zuccarello, also of the Rangers, and perennial rumor monger Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings. Both free agency-bound Columbus Blue Jackets superstars – Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin – feature in the top ten, as does a possible Nylander return piece Brett Pesce of the Carolina Hurricanes. A surprise addition is Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers, who seems unlikely to move in the midst of what the Jets hope is a Stanley Cup-caliber season. So too is Wayne Simmonds, who the Philadelphia Flyers seemingly would like to re-sign and keep on as a leader and core contributor, but the Flyers’ success this season will likely determine his availability. The trade board is limited to just 15 names right now, but this initial list certainly features plenty of talent and some names that have already featured prominently in rumors. TSN may have perfect timing, as the NHL trade market seems ready to heat up.
- One of the off-season’s biggest trades almost went differently, writes Sportsnet’s Luke Fox. Fox talked to new Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters recently, who stated that he expected a different package from a different team entirely in return for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, only to find that his former club, the Carolina Hurricanes, had offered the top package of Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Peters (obviously) says that he likes the way the deal turned out. While Hanifin is off to a slow start in Calgary, Lindholm has been an excellent fit next to Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the top line and currently sports a 24.3% shooting percentage to go with a team-leading nine goals and total of 14 points.
- Fox also recently spoke with Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza, who this past week played in his 1,000th NHL game, about how he is approaching a contract year. Spezza was transparent with his answer:
“Not when you’re 35. You don’t care about the contract years… I just want to play the year, have a good year. I want to be back here next year. The money doesn’t matter. I just want to play and make sure I have a good role… It’s different when you’re at this point in my career. I just want to be on a team that has a chance to win. So, no, I can’t say that’s once played into my mind… That time has passed in my career. I’m just looking to play and be on a good team and have a good role and contribute… If you put the work into it, you get rewarded with big contracts. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever played the game for the money.”
Spezza’s honesty is refreshing, but he also contradicts himself with a scenario that is likely to unfold as the season progresses. Spezza states that he wants to be back in Dallas next season, yet also wants a chance to finally win the Stanley Cup. Those two things may not coincide soon enough for the veteran center. The Stars currently share the 14th-best record in the NHL, but sit sixth out of seven in the powerhouse Central Division and have struggled to score goals early on this season. If Dallas cannot improve over the course of the season, Spezza will become an attractive trade rental candidate, especially since his eight points thus far indicate a bounce-back season compared to a disappointing 2017-18 campaign. Dallas may also be a few years away from really competing with the likes of Nashville and Winnipeg in the Central. A desire to win may make a continued career with the Stars less likely, but would make Spezza’s decision to waive his No-Movement Clause and choices in free agency much easier.
It doesn’t appear as if the Kings will be without Dustin Brown for too much longer. He’s currently on long-term injured reserve as he works his way back from a broken finger and isn’t eligible to be activated until October 28th at the earliest. While there was some concern he’d be out longer than that, Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider notes that the winger has begun taking part in team drills that don’t involve contact and that he could be activated for their game on the 28th. The 33-year-old is coming off a career year in 2017-18 that saw him collect 61 points and he could be a boon for a Los Angeles power play that has failed to score so far this season.
More from the West:
- Although Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau was pulled from Wednesday’s game against Boston by concussion spotters, he is feeling fine which should have him in line to play on Friday night versus Nashville, reports Sportsnet’s Eric Francis (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Francis adds there won’t be any disciplinary action towards Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who delivered the hit on Gaudreau.
- While there are teams that are keeping tabs on the potential availability of Toronto RFA William Nylander, don’t count the Oilers among that group. TSN’s Darren Dreger noted in an appearance on TSN 1050 (audio link) that Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli is not pursuing the winger although they could certainly benefit from some extra scoring pop up front. However, given their limited cap room, finding a deal that would keep them under the Upper Limit would be tricky.
- The Wild will be without center Matt Hendricks for the next two-to-three weeks, head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters, including Sarah McLellan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Twitter link). The injury was sustained on Tuesday night against Arizona. Meanwhile, center Joel Eriksson Ek has been ruled out for their next two games while Boudreau is hopeful that winger Marcus Foligno (illness) will be able to travel with the team to Dallas for their game on Friday.
The Calgary Flames have made quite a few moves this offseason in hopes of reshaping their roster after a dismal second half that saw them out of the playoffs. However, the Flames new signings may have caused other issues that the team will have to deal with in a few years — namely the expansion draft.
The Athletic’s Kent Wilson (subscription required) writes that the team might be in trouble if/when the unnamed Seattle franchise has its expansion draft in 2020. Assuming all the rules are the same as they were for Vegas, Calgary will have a logjam of players at the forward position and won’t have enough spaces to protect some quality players.
Assuming there are no changes among forwards over the next two seasons, the team would likely protect or have to protect Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk, James Neal as six forwards they would likely protect. That would leave one spot open for players like Derek Ryan, Mark Jankowski, Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane and Spencer Foo, which could leave several high quality players exposed to Seattle. Unless the team addresses these issues, the team may be giving Seattle a solid player.
- Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that the Vegas Golden Knights still haven’t decided on a plan for what they intend to do with second-line center Erik Haula after they signed Paul Stastny away from the Winnipeg Jets this offseason. Haula had a great offensive season, centering the second line with 29 goals and 55 points, but the line (along with the departed Neal and David Perron) struggled defensively. In fact, Vegas’ second line was one of the worst defensive lines in the league. “It produced, but the goals against per 60 minutes was not good enough,” said Vegas general manager George McPhee. “We were actually dead last among second lines in the league. You can just sort of look the other way on that or you can address it. We’re trying to address it.”
- J.D. Burke of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that he believes that Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat should continue to take his game to a new level as he has every year. However, if there is one area of Horvat’s game that could use some upgrading it would be his defensive game as that’s the weakest part of his game. The 23-year-old took his scoring game up a notch last year when he potted 22 goals, an improvement on his previous career-high of 20 goals, but Horvat missed 15 games last year, so to put up a career-high in goals is key. However, with the additions of players like Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Tim Schaller, maybe defense won’t be that imperative.
The Calgary Flames did more than just swap some players earlier today when they traded Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox in exchange for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. The team finally made the changes it had said it would after a dismal second half of the season. Despite starting a solid 25-16-4 through Jan. 14, the team instead fell apart, putting up a 13-23-6 second half in which the team looked disinterested and forced the Flames to make changes.
The Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis suggests that this is just the beginning of changes for Calgary and suggests that moving Hamilton was the start of it. The scribe reports that Hamilton’s apathy was an issue in the clubhouse, so just moving on from him is a positive step in fixing the Flames’ issues. The Flames also rid themselves of Fox, currently playing for Harvard University and who was unlikely to sign with Calgary as they are deep in blueline prospects. Postmedia’s Kristen Anderson interviewed Flames GM Brad Treliving, who added that Ferland’s unrestricted free agent status next season was a key reason the team moved him. “Michael is a warrior and has one year left on his contract and will be a UFA. That always comes into consideration,” Treliving said.
- Sticking with the Flames, Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg reports that Lindholm is likely to be given a much bigger role than he had in Carolina as he is expected to start the season on the team’s first line playing the wing alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The former fifth-overall pick in 2013 has put up solid numbers, but hasn’t had a breakout season yet. He finished last season with 16 goals and 44 points. Lindholm, who is a restricted free agent, along with Hanifin, both need to be signed as they rejected initial offers from Carolina, which prompted the trade.
- The Edmonton Oilers announced they have extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Darnell Nurse, Ryan Strome and Anton Slepyshev. Not offering them a qualifying offer would allow them to become unrestricted free agents. Nurse was one of the few bright spots on Edmonton’s defense. He had a career year, averaging 22:15 of ice time and scored six goals and had 26 assists on the year. Strome, who came over from the New York Islanders last offseason, had a quiet year with his new team, putting up 13 goals and 34 points, while Slepyshev continued in his struggles to break out in the NHL as he potted just six goals in 50 games played. All three, however, still are considered promising players. The only restricted free agent who was not mentioned as receiving a qualifying offer was Iiro Pakarinen, who has already signed a deal to return to the KHL next season.
- Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Sun writes that there is belief around the Canucks that defenseman Quinn Hughes, the team’s first-round pick in the draft, might be ready to contribute to the Canucks immediately. The scribe writes that general manager Jim Benning feels that Hughes is close to ready now. “I just look at that world championship and he was playing against NHL players,” Benning said. “He didn’t look out of place at all. He’s never going to run guys over but he has a good stick. He understands angles.” Hughes, who might be the best skater to come out of this draft, is the perfect compliment to coach Travis Green’s system, according to Botchford.
The future is still cloudy for reigning Stanley Cup Champion head coach Barry Trotz, as no one has a clear read on where he will go next. Trotz resigned from the Washington Capitals after the two sides couldn’t agree on a salary increase, and now there is rampant speculation that he will join the New York Islanders under Lou Lamoriello. Nothing under Lamoriello though is ever certain until a press release is given out—and even those can be misleading at times—which is why Arthur Staple of The Athletic (subscription required) can’t say for sure what’s about to happen.
Staple writes that some of his sources around the league believe Trotz has already agreed to come on board with the Islanders for what would likely be a five-year deal worth around $25MM, but knows Lamoriello well enough to not report any guarantees. Staple writes that there was “stony silence” on Wednesday from everyone involved. The Islanders fired head coach Doug Weight quickly after Lamoriello took control of the hockey operations, and are one of only two (including Washington) vacancies around the league.
- The Nashville Predators have shuffled around some people in the organization, promoting Tom Nolan to Chief Amateur Scout in the wake of Jeff Kealty being bumped up from that position to Assistant General Manager. The team has also moved Stan Drulia from the coaching side of the Milwaukee Admirals to the scouting division within the Predators front office. All of these moves were caused by long-time AGM Paul Fenton accepting a role in Minnesota, allowing an opportunity to move everyone up a step on the executive ladder. Nolan has been credited with finding a ton of the Predators top players, with the team release naming Ryan Ellis, Kevin Fiala, Colton Sissons, Eeli Tolvanen, Viktor Arvidsson and Juuse Saros as players drafted as a direct result of his work. He’ll try again tomorrow night when the Predators will have to wait until the third round to make a selection.
- The Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL have been purchased by a group of former and current NHL players and coaches. Names like Johnny Gaudreau, Zemgus Girgensons, Dan Bylsma and Peter Luukko have surfaced from the sale, a move that several other former players have done in various junior leagues around the world. Gaudreau played one season for the Saints in 2010-11, scoring 72 points in 60 games and winning the league championship before heading to Boston College.