- Although the Capitals are without center Evgeny Kuznetsov today against Philadelphia due to an undisclosed upper-body issue, the injury shouldn’t keep him out for too long. Head coach Barry Trotz told reporters, including Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, that he “for sure” expects the pivot to be ready in time for the postseason. While the team is listing him as day-to-day for now, more information should be known about the exact issue on Monday. Also listed as day-to-day is blueliner Brooks Orpik as he is dealing with a lower-body injury.
Despite just having lost defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to injury, the Winnipeg Jets look to be gaining several other names back. The team, which seems to have been hampered by multiple injuries over the past couple of months, could be getting three players back on Sunday.
JetsTV’s Jamie Thomas tweets that forwards Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry along with defenseman Toby Enstrom are likely to play if they feel good tomorrow. Scheifele has missed five games due to an upper-body injury, while Lowry’s upper-body injury has prevented him from playing in a game since Feb. 1. Enstrom has missed eight of his last nine games with the Jets with what is believed to be a lower-body injury.
Thomas also mentions that the team’s goalie situation isn’t improving as quickly. Backup goaltender Steve Mason, who had his knee scoped earlier this week is still on a tw0 to three-week timeframe and is not likely to return until April. He has just played in 12 games so far this year due to multiple injuries. Michael Hutchinson, out with a concussion, is active and riding a stationary bike, but there is no timetable yet for his return.
- Sportsnet’s John Shannon tweets that Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk did not join the team for their two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Arizona Sunday and Monday. The 20-year-old had already missed the past two games and is not expected to be back until at least Wednesday. He has been out with a possible concussion he sustained Sunday against the New York Islanders.
- The Washington Capitals announced that center Evgeny Kuznetsov will be out Sunday with an upper-body injury and will be listed as day-to-day. He was injured in Friday’s game against the New York Islanders after being tripped by Thomas Hickey. The 25-year-old has been one of the key constants for the Capitals as he already has a career-high in goals scored with 21 and is closing on his career-high for points.
- The Vancouver Canucks will be without defenseman Ben Hutton Saturday as he will miss the game due to a foot infection, according to Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal. The third-year blueliner has played 59 games this season and averages 18:27 ATOI.
- The Colorado Avalanche have placed forward Vladislav Kamenev on injured reserve, according to CapFriendly, after he has spent the last three games playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. No word on if he re-injured his arm, which he broke back in November.
Buried in the news of Ron Francis being replaced as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes was the fact that it was the first major personnel decision of the 2017-18 season. It’s March, well beyond the three-quarter mark of the season, and there has been just one general manager fired (but promoted) and still no coaches. It’s rare to see so much inactivity, but it can likely be linked to the fact that the league’s worst teams – Arizona, Buffalo, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Montreal – all have first- or second-year coaches: Rick Tocchet, Phil Housley, Guy Boucher, Travis Green, and Claude Julien respectively. Unsurprisingly, USA Today’s Kevin Allen lists the head coaches of four of the next five worst teams as being on the hot seat as the end of the season approaches. That includes the Edmonton Oilers’ Todd McLellan, the Detroit Red Wings’ Jeff Blashill, the New York Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Joel Quenneville, and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Bill Peters. The most obvious inclusion on this list is Peters, who has an owner looking to make changes and soon a new GM, and has also struggled to get the most out of his talented roster. Quenneville would be the biggest news, should he be removed, as the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, since 2008, and a three-time Stanley Cup champion. The last name on the list who doesn’t quite fit the pattern is the Washington Capitals’ Barry Trotz. Trotz has yet to be offered a contract extension and his future could depend on the Caps’ playoff success this season. However, as Allen states, Trotz would be the prime coaching candidate this summer if he isn’t retained by Washington. As of right now, all of these coaches are safe, but things could change quickly with the season coming to a close. In the meantime, if you would like to apply for the open Hurricanes GM position, here you go.
- One thing that there has been plenty of in the league this season has been punishment handed down by the NHL Department of Player Safety, as the league has focused on cracking down on certain penalties. A player who has gained plenty of attention, fair or not, has been Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. Marchand has finally spoken out after his most recent hit, a $2,000 fine for diving. Marchand spoke to the media, saying things like “it’s a small amount of money”, “it’s a joke”, “it’s pretty stupid” and “I don’t care about this.” He did go a step further though, adding “how are they (Player Safety) to tell …they go from being players to management and running the league pretty quickly and forget how to play the game.” While Marchand doesn’t seem to care much about a very minor fine, he is making a point that any fine for diving, the most subjective call in the game, is somewhat unreasonable, especially when the call comes from those who were not even present at the game.
- While the Bruins are continuing to win behind three straight game-winners from Marchand, their rivals in the Atlantic Division and the President’s Trophy race, the Tampa Bay Lightning, continue to win as well. They’ll get even better starting tonight, as their huge trade deadline acquisition, Ryan McDonagh, is set to make his debut with the team tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Head coach Jon Cooper told beat writer Bryan Burns that McDonagh is ready to go, after dealing with an upper-body injury for more than a month. McDonagh’s addition to the Bolts blue line makes them a scary team for anyone to go up against and that includes the Bruins, who play Tampa three more times this season and could very well meet them in the second round of the playoffs.
March 9th: The Capitals have officially confirmed the extension to Tom Gulitti of NHL.com.
March 4th: The Washington Capitals have signed general manager Brian MacLellan to a multi-year contract extension Saturday, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The next question is whether the team will extend head coach Barry Trotz as the coach is in the final year of his contract.
MacLellan has worked his way up the ladder with the Capitals having served as an assistant general manager for seven years with the organization before taking over general manager duties in 2014. While in charge, his teams have reached 100 points three consecutive years. The team’s lone issue has been its struggles in the playoffs as the team has failed to get out of the second round in each of those years.
Even this year, the Capitals are atop the Metropolitan Division this year with 81 points, despite losing a number of players due to their salary cap issues this year. The team lost several key players in the offseason, including defenseman Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nate Schmidt as well as forwards Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson. Yet the team has continued to succeed with younger players and some veteran additions.
As for Trotz, there are questions whether the Capitals may move on from the veteran coach. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman added on Saturday night’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada that the team might consider promoting assistant coach Todd Reirden. In the past, other teams have asked to interview Reirden for coaching jobs, including the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers.
“It’s gotten to the point where if he’s not signed soon … other teams are going to come out looking for him perhaps,” said Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston during Saturday night’s Headlines segment. “Barry’s future in Washington is very much uncertain.”
A Vezina Trophy winner is about to take a backseat, at least for a little while. “He hasn’t had a real good stretch,” Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said of starting goaltender Braden Holtby, speaking to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan. The reigning Jennings Trophy winner allowed three goals on just nine shots before getting chased in last night’s 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, capping off what has indeed been a bad stretch of games. Holtby has just one win in his last eight games, allowing three or more goals and recording a save percentage of .909 or worse in those other seven losses.
For Trotz and the Capitals, the time has come to give Holtby a break and let backup Philipp Grubauer take over for a while. Trotz told Khurshudyan “Because (Holtby) is No. 1 doesn’t mean you don’t go with Grubi for a bit just so (Holtby) can settle his game. We’ll sit down with (goaltending coach Scott Murray) just to see what the best thing for the long haul is…He’s going to work with our goaltending coaches and get his game in order.” It seems that the plan is to let Holtby rest his body and get his head on straight, as the Capitals try to hold on to their top seed in the Metropolitan Division. In his stead, Grubauer looks ready to step up. The 26-year-old has been one of the league’s best backups for a few years and hasn’t slowed down in 2017-18. He’ll try to improve on his .922 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average in his stint as starter.
Holtby was named an All-Star this season and each of the past two seasons, won the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16, and has finished among the top ten in the league in saves percentage and goals against average in each of the last three years. Yet, even the best keepers can hit a cold streak. That doesn’t mean they can’t bounce back. Case in point: Tuukka Rask. The Boston Bruins starter got off to a horrid start this season, allowing three or more goals in 11 of his first 14 starts and posting just three wins in that span, briefly loses his job to Anton Khudobin. Since December, he’s had only eight such 3+ goal games and three regulation losses and has not only firmly retake his job, but has worked his way into Vezina conversation. Like Rask, there’s no reason why Holtby can’t return from this benching and be elite for the Capitals by the playoffs. This is just a minor setback.
The St. Louis Blues are getting some reinforcements on the blue line, as they have activated Robert Bortuzzo from the injured reserve. Bortuzzo has been sidelined for more than two weeks with a knee injury suffered against the Dallas Stars back in mid-February. The big defenseman had played in 55 games with the Blues up to that point and should jump back into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. According to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, that could even be tonight in a re-match with the Stars with crucial divisional points on the line. The Blues then take four days off ahead of a season-defining road trip against Western wild card contenders: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Colorado. If St. Louis is still alive in the playoff race after these next five games, they could look forward to another addition on defense in the return of Joel Edmundson. In the meantime, Bortuzzo will be looked upon to step up in his return.
- Another Central Division squad is getting deeper at a key position. After nearly two months of dealing with concussions symptoms, Steve Mason is on his way back to the Winnipeg net and just in time for the stretch run. The Jets announced today that they have assigned Mason to their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, on a conditioning stint. The Moose in turn announced that Mason will get the start tonight against the Iowa Wild. With just 11 appearances and two head injuries to his name this season, Mason may need some time in the minors to get back in the swing of things and a week plus in the AHL would not be a surprise, but he will eventually make his return to Winnipeg. However, his role has changed dramatically over the course of this season. Signed to a two-year, $8.2MM starter-value contract this summer to presumably bridge the gap to Connor Hellebuyck, Mason instead has performed poorly and missed considerable time, while Hellebuyck has flourished. Mason will settle for a backup role down the stretch, supplanting Michael Hutchinson, and likely next year as well.
- Auston Matthews isn’t quite ready to return to the Toronto lineup, but he is getting closer. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, in speaking with Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, says that Matthews has been skating regularly. Johnston adds that the fortunate part of an upper-body injury, in this case a separated shoulder, is that it doesn’t stop one from skating and keeping up with his conditioning. Matthews is known for his work ethic and has surely been skating hard while on the sidelines. Whenever the Leafs’ doctors give his shoulder the okay, he should be back at full force for Toronto. Sadly, that approval won’t be coming ahead of today’s outdoor game between the Leafs and Washington Capitals at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Matthews will miss his fourth straight game and fourteenth game due to injury in 2017-18.
Though teams made several transactions yesterday to make their younger players eligible for the AHL playoffs, the rest of the season will still be filled with call-ups to help out the NHL team. Remember, after the trade deadline that though rosters have no limits in terms of total players, teams are allowed only four non-emergency recalls.
- The Washington Capitals have recalled Travis Boyd, who had been playing with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. For the third consecutive season, Boyd is among the scoring leaders for Hershey with 44 points in 56 games. While it’s unclear if he’s scheduled to enter the Capitals lineup right away, he can definitely give them some offensive punch if inserted down the stretch.
- Cory Schneider was assigned to the Binghamton Devils on a conditioning stint today, but is expected to be brought back on Wednesday to rejoin New Jersey on their current road trip. While that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back in the crease right away, it is a good sign that he’s approaching his return to the lineup.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled Tristan Jarry on an emergency loan after announcing that Matt Murray has been diagnosed with a concussion. Jarry had been sent down to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but will now have to help Casey DeSmith with the NHL duties. DeSmith is expected to start tonight for the Penguins, but Jarry has more experience in the starting role and could be asked to take over while Murray is out.
- The Calgary Flames announced that they have sent Andrew Mangiapane to the AHL, but the move was actually completed yesterday to make sure he was eligible for the minor league playoffs. With the addition of Chris Stewart off waivers, Mangiapane was likely looking at some healthy scratches and now can help the Stockton Heat instead.
- The Buffalo Sabres have recalled Seth Griffith from the AHL, spending one of their recalls to bring up the 25-year old forward. Griffith has played 76 NHL games over his career and is a point-per-game player at the minor league level. The undersized forward has excellent creativity and playmaking ability, but hasn’t ever been given an extended chance in a team’s top-6.
- As expected, the Minnesota Wild have brought Luke Kunin back up from the minor leagues. The Wild are extremely close to the cap, and needed to move out some salary at the deadline in order to bring Kunin up for the stretch run while keeping enough room to sign Jordan Greenway. Kunin has just 19 points for the Iowa Wild this season, but is a hard working two-way center that could jump right into the lineup for the Wild.
- Ethan Bear will be one of the Edmonton Oilers’ four call-ups for the remainder of the season, and will get a chance to show what he can do after an outstanding junior career. Bear was a 70-point defenseman in his final season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, and was a huge part of their qualifying for the Memorial Cup in 2017. The undersized but super-skilled Bear has 16 points in his first professional season for the Bakersfield Condors.
- The Anaheim Ducks have returned winger Kalle Kossila and goalie Reto Berra to San Diego of the AHL, notes Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. Berra’s demotion was expected with John Gibson likely to return to the lineup on Friday. As for Kossila, he didn’t get into any games after being recalled back on the 24th; he has a goal and an assist in ten contests with Anaheim from earlier this season.
After a month of lead up, a sprinkling of trades over the last week or so, and a wild deadline day today, NHL teams are done with transactions for the 2017-18 NHL season. Here are the deals that improved contenders in the Eastern Conference:
Columbus Blue Jackets receive:
F Thomas Vanek
Columbus Blue Jackets receive:
D Ian Cole
Ottawa Senators receive:
F Nick Moutrey
2020 third-round pick
New Jersey Devils receive:
F Patrick Maroon
Edmonton Oilers receive:
F J.D. Dudek
2019 third-round pick
New York Islanders receive:
F Chris Wagner
Anaheim Ducks receive:
F Jason Chimera
Boston Bruins receive:
F Tommy Wingels
Chicago Blackhawks receive:
Conditional 2019 fifth-round pick
Pittsburgh Penguins receive:
F Josh Jooris
Carolina Hurricanes receive:
F Greg McKegg
- Another team likely to be inactive before the deadline is the Capitals, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post. The Caps have already made a pair of depth moves to shore up the depth on their back end with the acquisitions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek last week and while they have some flexibility when it comes to waiver-exempt players that could be sent down to free up cap space, they do not appear interested in moving anyone off their current roster which will limit what they’re able to do.
Though it is still not clear if Mike Green will even be traded today, Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required) reports that the veteran defenseman has already given his approval to the Detroit Red Wings to send him to Washington or Tampa Bay. The Lightning have long been rumored to be the front runners for Green, though that is a bit more complicated now that players like Erik Karlsson and Ryan McDonagh appear to be on the market.
Green looked like the top defenseman on the market until the other two became available, and could still fetch a reasonable price for the Red Wings. The 32-year old has 29 points on the season and is more effective in his own end than many give him credit for. As a depth addition for a playoff-bound club, Green can immediately become a powerplay quarterback and puck-mover.
For Washington, the deal would be quite complicated as they have very little cap space even at this late stage. It’s unlikely that Detroit would want to take much back as they try to get their finances in order going forward, making a match seem like a long shot at this point.
Tampa remains the wildcard, as they appear poised to make a defensive addition at some point. For a team that is so loaded up front, they rely heavily on Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to play nearly half the game and could use an experienced defenseman to help take some of the burden off their shoulders.