All posts by Josh Wegman

Hurricanes’ Hamilton suffered broken fibula vs. Blue Jackets

The Carolina Hurricanes have been dealt a significant blow, as defenseman Dougie Hamilton suffered a broken left fibula Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to team writer Michael Smith.

Hamilton is being evaluated by doctors and could undergo surgery as early as Friday evening, with a recovery timeline to follow.

Hamilton, 26, is in the midst of a Norris Trophy-caliber season with 14 goals and 40 points through 47 games. He was named to the Metropolitan Division All-Star squad, but will teammate Jaccob Slavin will now replace him.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, find themselves in a heated playoff race; they enter Friday in a three-way tie with the Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers for the Eastern Conference's two wildcard spots.

Thankfully, the club has ample depth on the blue line. The Canes have been carrying seven capable NHL defensemen on their roster for the bulk of the season, and both Haydn Fleury and Trevor van Riemsdyk should expect to watch fewer games from the press box moving forward.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: Oilers, Flames both looking to add top-6 forward

The on-ice rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames has been well-documented this season, but the Battle of Alberta could extend beyond the playing surface over the next five weeks.

Both clubs are looking to add a top-six forward before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger.

The Flames cleared $4.3 million in cap space when they dealt Michael Frolik to the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 2. LeBrun noted that finding a right-handed shooter is a "key" for Calgary general manager Brad Treliving.

Rental forwards that could be on the trade block ahead of the deadline include Tyler Toffoli (R), Chris Kreider (L), Jesper Fast (R), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (R), Tyler Ennis (L), Vladislav Namestnikov (L), Ilya Kovalchuk (R), Mikael Granlund (L), Rocco Grimaldi (R), Craig Smith (R), Wayne Simmonds (R), Alex Galchenyuk (L), Conor Sheary (L), and Jimmy Vesey (L).

Among players set to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2021, Tomas Tatar (L), Eric Staal (L), Kyle Palmieri (R), and Marcus Johansson (L) are intriguing names on clubs currently outside the playoff picture that could become sellers ahead of the deadline.

Whether many of the aforementioned players could hold their own in a top-six role is up for debate, but it's clear Treliving and Oilers GM Ken Holland have options at their disposal.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Perreault irate Virtanen’s elbow went undisciplined: ‘Player safety, my ass’

Winnipeg Jets veteran winger Mathieu Perreault was livid upon hearing that Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen would not be disciplined for elbowing him up high Tuesday.

"Player safety, my ass," Perreault told the Winnipeg Sun's Ted Wyman following Thursday's practice. "This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn't have the puck."

Virtanen wasn't suspended or fined by the head of the NHL Department of Player Safety George Parros, nor was he penalized by the on-ice official.

"I can't really protect myself if the league's not going to protect me," Perrault continued. "I'm the smallest guy (on) the ice so I can't really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick, so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f------ stick. And I better not get suspended for it."

The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Perreault missed time with a concussion after taking a late hit from Joel Farabee in December. The Philadelphia Flyers rookie was suspended three games.

Perreault said he isn't concussed, but he told the Winnipeg Sun's Scott Billeck that his jaw is sore and he will probably struggle while eating the next couple of days.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler came to the defense of his teammate and tried to fight Virtanen, but Virtanen wanted no part of it, even though it would've taken a superior player off the ice.

"(Virtanen) doesn't want to fight anybody," Perreault said. "He's gonna throw his elbow around and he's not gonna fight anybody and the league's not gonna do anything about it. So maybe I should start running around with my elbows up and getting guys in the face and I won't have to answer and fight anybody, and I should be all right, right?"

Virtanen has dropped the mitts twice in his NHL career, both times during the 2015-16 season, according to hockeyfights.com.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Golden Knights fire Gallant, hire DeBoer as replacement

The Vegas Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant on Wednesday and replaced him with former San Jose Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer, the team announced.

Gallant led Vegas to a surprising berth in the Stanley Cup Final during the franchise's inaugural campaign in 2017-18 and then lost to the Sharks in Game 7 of the first round last season.

With 54 points through 49 games of 2019-20, the Golden Knights don't currently hold a playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, they trail the Arizona Coyotes by just three points for the lead in the crowded Pacific Division.

In a strange twist, Gallant had been set to coach the Pacific Division squad at the NHL All-Star Game later in January. There's been no announcement on whether his firing will impact that role.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Caps keep Cup window wide open with Backstrom extension

Brian MacLellan should be general manager of the year at some point.

MacLellan, the Washington Capitals' GM since 2014, has helped build a perennial Stanley Cup contender while expertly navigating the salary cap. He took another step toward keeping the Capitals' ultra-talented core together on Tuesday, inking elite playmaking pivot and franchise icon Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year extension worth $9.2 million a season.

Most teams of Washington's ilk are in annual salary-cap trouble, but the Capitals find themselves in rarified territory moving forward.

A window to win

Patrick McDermott / National Hockey League / Getty

If it wasn't for Washington's Stanley Cup win in 2018, the feeling around this team would be a lot different, and Backstrom's contract, which will keep him on the books through his age-37 season, might be viewed by critics as a desperation move.

Instead, by taking one of the top pending unrestricted free agents in Backstrom off the board, MacLellan has kept the Caps' Cup window open for at least another few years, increasing their chances of a second championship.

Washington is tied for first in the NHL with 67 points entering Tuesday's action, making it a Stanley Cup favorite once again. Cap space is tight this season, so a significant addition before the trade deadline seems unlikely - and frankly, unnecessary given the team's strong play and complete roster.

MacLellan could have some flexibility this summer, though, with goaltender Braden Holtby and his $6.1-million cap hit scheduled to come off the books on July 1. Holtby has struggled this season to the tune of an .899 save percentage and 3.02 goals-against average, while 22-year-old Ilya Samsonov (13-2-1, .925 SV%, 2.11 GAA) appears ready to assume the No. 1 role moving forward.

Aside from Holtby, Washington's only other remotely key pending free agent is defenseman Radko Gudas.

CapFriendly projects Washington to have over $10 million in cap space this offseason. Gudas is a nice piece, but the Capitals could easily roll with a top four featuring John Carlson ($8M), Dmitry Orlov ($5.1M), Michal Kempny ($2.5M), and Nick Jensen ($2.5M) on the back end without skipping a beat. All four blue-liners are under contract with relatively team-friendly cap hits until at least 2022.

Up front, it's much of the same. In addition to Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8M), T.J. Oshie ($5.75M), Tom Wilson ($5.16M), Lars Eller ($3.5M), Carl Hagelin ($2.75M), Richard Panik ($2.75M), and Garnet Hathaway ($1.5M) provide cost certainty at team-friendly rates until 2023 at the earliest.

This means MacLellan could be aggressive in adding players on one-year deals this summer before turning to his next task: re-signing Alex Ovechkin (UFA), Jakub Vrana (RFA), and Samsonov (RFA) before their contracts expire after next season.

Ovechkin seems a lock to be a Capital for life, and he could take an average annual value similar to his current $9.538-million rate for the good of the team as he approaches his twilight years. Using some of the cap space at his disposal, MacLellan could give Vrana - currently on pace for 35 goals - a substantial long-term extension. For Samsonov, a bridge deal seems the likely route.

In short, aside from losing one piece during the Seattle expansion draft in 2021, it seems one of the NHL's best teams is going to stay together for at least three more years beyond the 2019-20 campaign, taking multiple swings at another Stanley Cup along the way.

None of this happens without MacLellan's astute contract negotiations, nor without the organization's ability to effectively draft and develop players despite a dearth of high picks. But nothing lasts forever.

A steep fall well worth it

Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The glory days are in full flight for a few more years, but the Capitals will fall eventually, and it could be painful.

Some of the contracts handed out by MacLellan help pry open the window now, but they could become burdens one day. At some point, the Capitals will have Backstrom, Oshie, Carlson, and, presumably, Ovechkin, taking up a large chunk of the cap in their late 30s.

MacLellan appears willing to accept long-term pain in exchange for short-term gain - and so he should. This team is special, and breaking it up would be a tragedy.

The Capitals are one of the best teams of the era, whether or not they win another Cup. But claiming one or even two more titles would cement Washington's status as a dynasty, and MacLellan has his club positioned well to do so.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Report: New skills event will have players shooting pucks from stands

The NHL is unveiling a new skills competition event at the 2020 All-Star Weekend that will feature players shooting pucks from up in the stands into targets on the ice, sources told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

Eight players will stand in a section of the Enterprise Center in St. Louis above the lower bowl seats and fire pucks down to circular targets positioned on the ice. The targets will vary in point values based on the difficulty of the shot.

"It's hockey meets Topgolf," the source said, referring to the popular driving range.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin took part in something similar in 2019 at an empty PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

To ensure the safety of the fans below, the protective netting will be "reconfigured" and stretched above the section where the players are shooting from. It will be the final event of the evening on Jan. 24.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Draisaitl: ‘I’d probably get off the ice’ if playing with Tkachuk at ASG

Warning: Story contains coarse language.

Leon Draisaitl doesn't plan on putting aside personal grudges at the 2020 All-Star Game.

The Edmonton Oilers star said Monday that if he and teammate Connor McDavid have to play with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk at the three-on-three All-Star Game tournament, he would "probably get off the ice," according to the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson.

Draisaitl, McDavid, and Tkachuk will all be members of the Pacific Divison All-Star team. The game will be played on Jan. 25 in St. Louis.

Tkachuk ignited the Battle of Alberta rivalry on Saturday by taking multiple runs at Oilers forward Zack Kassian. Kassian eventually took exception to a hit and tried to fight Tkachuk, but the Flames forward had no interest in doing so.

Tkachuk said postgame that if Kassian doesn't want to get hit, he should "stay off the tracks." Kassian responded by calling Tkachuk "a young punk" and "a pussy."

Oilers forward James Neal, who played for the Flames last season, also defended Kassian, calling Tkachuk's comments about the tracks "stupid," according to TSN.

Neal said Tkachuk shouldn't be taking huge runs at Kassian if he has no plans to answer the bell. Neal used the example that he wouldn't take a run at Flames enforcer Milan Lucic because "he's gonna kill me." Neal added that "it's a huge respect thing."

Tkachuk won't receive any further discipline for his actions, but Kassian had a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Leafs’ Rielly out at least 2 months with broken foot

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly will miss a minimum of eight weeks after sustaining a fractured foot Sunday against the Florida Panthers, the team announced Monday.

Rielly leads all Toronto defensemen in points (27), shots (122), and average ice time (24:15). He finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting last season after racking up a career-high 20 goals and 72 points.

The Leafs, who are also without defender Jake Muzzin due to a broken foot, recalled top defenseman prospect Rasmus Sandin earlier Monday.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Leafs’ Rielly out at least 2 months with broken foot

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly will miss a minimum of eight weeks after sustaining a fractured foot Sunday against the Florida Panthers, the team announced Monday.

Rielly leads all Toronto defensemen in points (27), shots (122), and average ice time (24:15). He finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting last season after racking up a career-high 20 goals and 72 points.

The Leafs, who are also without defender Jake Muzzin due to a broken foot, recalled top defenseman prospect Rasmus Sandin earlier Monday.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Maple Leafs promote top prospect Sandin from AHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs recalled defenseman Rasmus Sandin from the AHL, the team announced Monday.

Sandin, the 29th overall pick in the 2018 draft, is widely considered the organization's top prospect. He's produced 15 points in 21 AHL contests with the Toronto Marlies this season and tallied 10 points in seven games with Sweden at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he was named the tournament's best defenseman.

The 19-year-old made the Maple Leafs out of training camp and skated in six NHL contests to open the campaign. While playing just over 12 minutes per night with the big club, he tallied two assists and produced some dazzling possession stats, including a 57.5 Corsi For percentage and a 52.5 expected goals for percentage, according to Natural Stat Trick.

It's unclear how Toronto plans to use him this time around. If Sandin suits up in four more NHL games this season, his entry-level contract will kick in. That would make him a restricted free agent in 2022 instead of 2023.

Fellow lefty-shooting defenseman Jake Muzzin has missed the Leafs' last seven games with a broken foot and was placed on injured reserve Sunday. Veteran Martin Marincin has filled in for Muzzin of late, yielding mixed results.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.