Paul Coffey: ‘I wish there was more hitting’ in today’s NHL

Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey had to play through some of the hardest hitting days of the NHL. As a fan of what today's game has turned into, he's still yearning for the grittiness to return.

"The one thing I wish - and can I say again I love watching the game, it's great - I wish there was more hitting," Coffey said on Sportsnet's "Writer's Bloc" podcast. "I wasn't a hitter, but I’ll tell you what, if I had my proverbial head up my rear-end one game and I wasn't into it and somebody hit me, it certainly woke me up real fast. I think that part of the game is gone."

Coffey further explained his reasoning for wanting the bigger hits to return.

"You put traffic, you start hitting guys, game gets a lot more interesting," he added. "The real players come out to play, the real players know how to think in traffic and that was an exciting part of the game that I don't know if it'll ever come back."

Coffey, 58, ranks second among defensemen all time in goals, assists, and points, racking up 396 goals and 1,531 points in 1,409 career games. He also holds the record for the most goals by a defenseman in a season, popping in 48 in 1985-86.

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1 offseason question for each Atlantic Division team

The NHL offseason is not technically underway yet, but the league's pause presents a good time to ask one pressing offseason question for each Atlantic Division team.

Metropolitan | Central | Pacific (April 6)

Boston Bruins

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Q: What will happen with Torey Krug?

Krug is Boston's most important, and one of the league's most intriguing, pending unrestricted free agents. The diminutive blue-liner has averaged 53 points per 82 games in his career.

The Bruins have a projected $22.7 million in cap space, but they also have multiple other pending free agents, most notably Jake DeBrusk, who's coming off his entry-level deal. Krug, who earned $5.25 million per year on his last deal, should receive upwards of $7 million per season on his next pact.

Boston has a knack for retaining its players on team-friendly deals (including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy). Will Krug follow suit? Or will he try and cash in on the open market?

Buffalo Sabres

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Q: Two-part question: Which defenseman will be moved, and how will they acquire a second-line center?

The Sabres have to do two things this offseason: trade a defenseman; acquire a second-line center. Only time will tell if both can happen in the same move.

The UFA market doesn't have the solution, unless you're a believer in Carl Soderberg, Derick Brassard, or Erik Haula. Internally, although the line of Victor Olofsson, Marcus Johansson, and Dominik Kahun gelled together well toward the end of the season, Johansson is better suited on the wing, not as a second-line center. Former top-10 pick Casey Mittelstadt has been a flop thus far.

There's also a logjam defensively, specifically on the right side, with Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Henri Jokiharju, and Colin Miller in the fold. Ristolainen seems most likely to be moved, but he alone won't be enough to land a quality pivot. General manager Jason Botterill will have to get creative.

Detroit Red Wings

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Q: Will Steve Yzerman start leaving his mark?

Stevie Y has been the Red Wings' GM for nearly a full calendar year, but he's yet to make a splash. He's executed nine trades with Detroit, but only two (landing Robby Fabbri from the Blues and sending Andreas Athanasiou to the Oilers) have been of any significance.

How patient will Yzerman be? He essentially kept the same club last summer and it worked as planned (?), as the Red Wings finished dead last in the NHL this season, ensuring them the best odds of drafting first overall. He didn't have much of a choice, though, as Detroit was hemmed in by cap constraints. This offseason, he'll have a projected $37.7 million in cap space.

The Wings have a handful of restricted free agents to re-sign, most notably Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Fabbri. But Yzerman will still have plenty of money left over to make substantial improvements through free agency if he decides to be aggressive. Whether he wants to fast-track the rebuild or be content with collecting high draft picks for another couple of years remains to be seen.

Florida Panthers

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Q: Will the Panthers break up their core?

Though much of the Panthers' struggles this season can be placed on netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, it's safe to say the group as a whole underachieved. The club was aggressive last summer, bringing in Bobrovsky, defenseman Anton Stralman, forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari, and head coach Joel Quenneville, but Florida still wasn't in a playoff spot before the season's hiatus.

Center Vincent Trocheck was traded at the deadline for a suboptimal return, but Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wondered in a March edition of his "31 Thoughts" column whether bigger changes could follow: "There are many potential changes on and off the ice," he wrote, "but what has other GMs buzzing is a belief the Panthers will strongly consider breaking up their core because the mix hasn't worked. Was the Vincent Trocheck deal just the tip of the iceberg?"

Trading Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, or Aaron Ekblad would seem unthinkable. Keith Yandle has a no-movement clause, so it's unlikely to think he'd be willing to leave tax-free Florida. Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov, the other key members of the Panthers' core, are pending UFAs. What can be done to shake up the core? Would they let both Hoffman and Dadonov walk in free agency? That seems to be as dramatic as it might get.

Montreal Canadiens

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Q: Will Marc Bergevin go RFA hunting again?

Bergevin stunned the hockey world last summer when he signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year, $42.27-million offer sheet. The shock was for two reasons: There hadn't been an offer sheet since 2013; the low-ball offer was a joke for a player of Aho's caliber. The Hurricanes didn't have to think twice before matching.

However, perhaps the Canadiens GM has learned from this experience. Maybe he'll go after another RFA this summer and do what's necessary by overpaying so the opposing team is unable - or unwilling - to match.

Montreal is in a good spot to go all-in for an RFA. The club has over $20 million in projected cap space, only one key free agent of its own in Max Domi (RFA), and plenty of draft picks. Plus, there's an incentive to win while Shea Weber and Carey Price are still effective players.

Realistically, the Habs may be one dynamic forward, one quality defenseman, and a red-hot Price away from a team that could go on a deep playoff run. Yes, that's a lot to ask, but they can realistically sign an RFA to fill one of those holes. The Canadiens have the pockets to make life uncomfortable for the Islanders or Lightning if they sign Mathew Barzal or Mikhail Sergachev to an offer sheet. Both clubs are cap-strapped enough where they could have trouble matching a rich-enough offer.

Ottawa Senators

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Q: Will the lottery balls fall their way?

This upcoming draft is undoubtedly the most important in Senators history. The club has seven selections in the first two rounds, including its own first-round pick and San Jose's first-rounder, giving them the second- and third-best odds, respectively, at the No. 1 overall pick.

If Ottawa can win the lottery, selecting dynamic winger Alexis Lafreniere would speed up the rebuild and help fill the seats. If the club lands picks Nos. 2 and 3, snagging a potential franchise center in Quinton Byfield, plus either Tim Stutzle, Jamie Drysdale, or somebody else, the team will have an exceptional long-term outlook.

However, if both of Ottawa's picks fall a few spots, landing a star player or two becomes much less of a guarantee. This would be a big blow to an organization in desperate need of high-end talent.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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Q: How will the Lightning stay cap compliant?

Julien BriseBois has a tough task ahead. The Lightning have only $7.8 million in projected cap space and five pending RFAs. Two of them - Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev - will not come cheap. It's obvious the Lightning will need to move a contract in order to sign Cirelli and Sergachev, but that could prove to be difficult.

Eight of Tampa's 15 players under contract next season have a no-trade clause. Of the seven players without trade protection, only three make more than $1.8 million: Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. That trio isn't going anywhere.

Ideally, the Lightning could trade Ondrej Palat ($5.3M), Yanni Gourde ($5.16M), or Tyler Johnson ($5M), but it's unlikely any of them would be willing to waive their full no-trade clauses to leave sunny, tax-free Florida. On July 1 (or whenever the new league year commences), Alex Killorn's full trade protection becomes a 16-team no-trade list. Even though he's coming off a career year and his $4.45-million cap hit is team-friendly, he'll likely be dealt via the process of elimination.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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Q: How will the defense be addressed?

It's no secret the Maple Leafs could stand to improve their blue line. Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci are both pending UFAs and it's highly unlikely they'll be brought back. At least one defenseman needs to be added, but the club has just over $7 million in projected cap space, and RFAs Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev are due for moderate raises.

Targeting Alex Pietrangelo in free agency seems impossible at this point. Even lesser names, such as Travis Hamonic, Radko Gudas, or Dylan Demelo, would be tough to fit under the cap unless the Leafs move out a contract.

Toronto does have plenty of depth on the wings, which could make Andreas Johnsson ($3.4M) or Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2M) expendable. The Leafs seem most likely to trade one of these wingers as part of a package for a top-four D-man, but it won't be easy.

(Salary source: CapFriendly)

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Auston Matthews reveals favorite players to Justin Bieber

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews hopped on Instagram Live with his friend Justin Bieber on Sunday.

The pair initially spoke about the Netflix hits "Tiger King" and "Love is Blind" before Bieber was able to get Matthews to divulge a bit of hockey information.

"My favorite hockey player of all time ... I have so many, but I think the two that kind of stand out the most to me are Shane Doan," Matthews told Bieber. "You know he was playing for the Coyotes, that's when I first got into hockey ... I've gotten to know him over the years, he's such a good person."

For his second pick, Matthews went with a player he still faces off against today.

"Patrick Kane. Probably even still today, my favorite player to watch."

Bieber then asked Matthews who the hardest player to defend in the league is, adding that he doesn't have to answer if he doesn't want to. Matthews declined the opt-out option and offered his thoughts.

"There's so many good players, it's kind of hard to just pinpoint one. We've played against Buffalo quite a lot, (Jack) Eichel's really good - playing against him, he's really strong," he said. "A guy like (Connor) McDavid obviously, he's really, really fast and does everything ... he's hard to keep up with ... so probably have to go with him."

Bieber ended the call by complimenting Matthews' moustache, calling it "the best in the league."

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Trotz admits overcoaching Islanders

New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has some regrets about how he handled his club before the NHL paused the season.

"Twenty-twenty hindsight is always a great thing, but I would do a few things different," he told Newsday's Andrew Gross. "Maybe practiced, at different times, more, just because the group needed it.

"Sometimes, I felt like we overcoached," Trotz added. "That's because we're so passionate about getting better. When I say you overcoach, you get away from what you do really well."

The Islanders were one of the NHL's best teams early in the season, going a franchise-record 17 straight games without a regulation loss from mid-October to late November. However, they cooled off down the stretch.

New York won only two of its final 13 games before the postponement, falling out of a playoff position. The club currently sits one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, albeit with two games in hand on Columbus.

Despite that slide, Trotz still believes the team would have made the postseason, or will, if and when play resumes.

"I wasn't worried we weren’t going to make the playoffs because we were trending, mentally, in the right way," he said. "Our mental mindset was going in the right direction."

Trotz is in his second campaign with the Islanders after helping the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018. He led New York into the postseason in 2018-19. That year, the Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round before getting swept by the Hurricanes in Round 2.

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Vegas Golden Knights to donate 7,500 meals to local hospitals

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

The Vegas Golden Knights started an initiative that will provide over 7,500 meals to doctors, nurses, and employees at local hospitals, the team announced Sunday.

The initiative has been made possible thanks to donations from the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation, players, and staff.

The players who have contributed so far include William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, and Jon Merrill. Other donations from players may be announced at a later date, the team added.

"Medical professionals throughout Las Vegas are battling this virus on the frontlines in an effort to keep our families and community safe. They are true examples of what it means to be a Knight," Golden Knights Foundation president Kim Frank said. "We're proud to show our support for those working in healthcare across the Las Vegas Valley by providing thousands of meals over the coming weeks."

Starting April 6, the team will provide 300 meals a day, five days a week for five weeks to preselected local partner hospitals.

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Islanders’ Greiss offers food, supplies to those in need

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The world needs more people like Thomas Greiss.

The New York Islanders goaltender took to Instagram on Saturday to offer food, toilet paper, and other items to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 34-year-old has gone 16-9-4 for the Isles this season, sporting a .913 save percentage and a 2.74 goals-against average. He's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason.

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WATCH: Classic 🏒: Oilers’ dynasty is born

On May 19, 1984, one dynasty ended, and another was born.

The Edmonton Oilers took on the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, trying to close out the series. The Isles were coming off of four straight Stanley Cups, including a sweep of the Oilers in the '83 final. Wayne Gretzky delivered a vintage performance to help capture his first ring.

Watch the live stream below at 8 p.m. ET:

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Isles’ Greene ‘definitely going to play’ next season

Andy Greene's 14-year career won't end at the hands of a potential cancellation.

The veteran defenseman plans on returning for 2020-21, regardless of whether the current campaign resumes.

"Oh, yeah, for sure, in my mind, I'm definitely going to play," Greene told Newsday's Andrew Gross.

The New Jersey Devils traded Greene - who was the team's captain and longest-serving active member - to the New York Islanders prior to the trade deadline this season. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello actually signed Greene as an undrafted free agent in 2006 when he was the GM of the Devils.

Greene, 37, is a pending unrestricted free agent but hinted that he'd be open to returning to Long Island.

"I loved my three weeks that I've been there," Greene said. "It's been a very unique situation. The familiarity (with Lamoriello) and the guys have been great. It's a great situation there in terms of everything they do as an organization. I'll focus and worry about what we're going through now and we'll figure everything out later and go from there."

The Islanders would finish outside of the playoffs by point total if the current standings remain. However, by points percentage, they'd surpass the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card spot.

Greene tallied 14 points in 63 games between the two clubs while averaging 19:33 of ice time per contest.

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