The Toronto Maple Leafs only have five defensemen on their current roster under contract for next season with Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. That may be changing.
The Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby writes that the Maple Leafs and Muzzin are close to agreeing to a four-year contract, with many suggesting it will be in the $5.5M range.
“You can only commit so much salary to the season following the one you’re in, but that amount goes up by 10 per cent on March 1,” Johnston said. “So it does seem as though the Leafs and Jake Muzzin are on the path here to reaching a contract extension, but I wouldn’t be surprised if everything isn’t signed, sealed and delivered until after that date.”
That kind of a diagnosis actually probably comes as a relief to the team and fans alike after rumors swirled that Weber could be facing a more long-term injury. The Montreal captain has obviously dealt with several serious injuries over the last few years, including missing most of the 2017-18 season.
This new ailment brought up discussions of Weber’s contract and whether he will be able to play out the remaining years given his recent health issues and aging body. The defenseman will turn 35 this summer but still has six seasons left on the 14-year, $110M deal he signed with the Nashville Predators in 2012. Because of the structure of that deal, the Predators could face massive recapture penalties if Weber were to retire early. Injury, however, could be a solution.
If Weber instead goes on long-term injured reserve at some point for the rest of his contract, the Predators won’t have to deal with those recapture penalties. Even if he does recover fully from this latest injury, it seems likely that that the end of Weber’s career will be spent on LTIR.
It looked for a little while like Jason Spezza ’s career was coming to an end. After struggling through his final two seasons with the Dallas Stars, Spezza was forced to settle for a one-year $700K deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Made a healthy scratch on opening day and several times after that, the 36-year old was barely hanging on. Things have changed since Mike Babcock was fired as head coach however, and now things are looking up for the veteran center.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet spoke with the Maple Leafs’ forward today, who explained that he is already hoping to play next season. Spezza’s “I don’t see why not” is exactly what you should expect from a player who has suddenly become a key part of Toronto’s playoff chase and looks like he has turned the clock back a decade.
Spezza’s 2.04 even-strength points/60 ranks only behind William Nylander (2.52), Mitch Marner (2.51) and Auston Matthews (2.50) for the team lead among those on the roster, meaning he’s doing more with his limited ice time than most of those younger options. Given the league minimum contract he’s on, that’s exactly the kind of bargain that will attract plenty of interest on the open market.
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 2/10/20
If it means the top players in the world return to Olympic participation, the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation are open to changing their relationship with the NHL. In a new and potentially game-changing shift in the status quo, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the IOC and IIHF have decided that they would be willing to meet many of the demands previously made by the NHL in order to ensure the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing feature NHL talent.
Friedman reports that the two global organizations met in New York earlier this week and came to the conclusion that NHL participation would be worth ceding promotional rights and contributing greater financial assistance to the league. This would include paying injury insurance costs and travel costs, as well as allowing the NHL to market its stars’ participation in the Winter Games, including the use of Olympic footage and marks. This checks all the boxes for the league’s previous demands for returning to the Olympics. As for their final complaint, that the Games are disruptive to the season, that argument has been considerably weakened by the league’s bye week format, which reduces game play by 50 percent in the weeks on either side of the All-Star break. If the league is comfortable with that break every year, it stands to reason that a slightly longer break once every four years is not “incredibly disruptive.”
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 2/9/20
It’s that time of the season. The NHL trade deadline is still roughly a few weeks away but the rumor mill is working overtime.
Unlike in seasons past, there are plenty of players who look like they’re on their way to a new club. And, as Sheryl Crow once sang, a change would do them good.
So, in no particular order, here are 10 players around the NHL who could use a change of scenery.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Ottawa Senators Trade rumors surrounding Pageau have swirled for the better part of this season, mainly because he has played so well despite the rest of the Senators sputtering around him. The 27-year-old center is on pace to eclipse his career-high points total of 43 (2015-2016) and, with just a couple months remaining on his modest contract, would be a good selection for a team looking for a rental.
The first half of the 2019-20 NHL season is in the books, and not everything went as we expected. There were coaching changes in Toronto, Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey and Nashville, some surprising teams have played their way into playoff contention, and we might have a player who is not Alex Ovechkin lead the league in goals this season. We look ahead to the second half of the season and 25 of the biggest questions to be answered along the way.
1 of 25
Is John Hynes enough to fix the Predators?
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI
After a disappointing first half, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile did something he almost never does — he made a coaching change. Peter Laviolette is out; John Hynes is in. Hynes is just the third coach in Predators franchise history and now has the task of trying to get things back on the right track in Music City. He has a lot of talent to work with, and the Predators have been an outstanding 5-on-5 team this season even under Laviolette. The problem is the special teams and goaltending have completely abandoned them. If Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros do not play better, the coach may not matter.
2 of 25
Will the Sharks ever get it figured out?
Darren Yamashita, USATI
This is one of the most baffling situations in the NHL this season. The San Jose Sharkswere supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender but have instead been one of the league’s worst teams. The goaltending duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has, predictably, been a mess for the second year in a row. They have not been good enough as a team this year to mask that, and with Logan Couture now sidelined it is difficult to see the Sharks digging themselves out of this hole. The optimistic might look at the Blues from a year ago as an example pf how quickly things can turn around (bad start, in-season coaching change), but the Sharks do not seem to have a Jordan Binnington card to play like the Blues did.
3 of 25
Will the new-look Maple Leafs break through?
John E. Sokolowski, USATI
After three straight first round exits and an underwhelming start this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on from Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe to head coach. The early results have been everything they could have hoped for. They are playing a faster, more aggressive style offensively, they are scoring goals like they should be given their roster and they just look like a better team. They are no longer trying to win every game 2-1 and are finally allowing their stars to play to their strengths. Will that be enough to get over Boston and Tampa Bay in the playoffs? Defense is still a question, but you have to like their chances based on the early results under Keefe.
The only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins kept Jarry as their backup goalie at the start of the season is because he cost them less against the salary cap than Casey DeSmith. He has since taken over the starting job in the short term. The combination of his play (which earned him a trip to the 2020 All-Star Game) and Matt Murray’s struggles has not only made him Pittsburgh’s goalie for now, but he also has probablythe team MVP to this point. Murray has always been seen as the long-term answer and already has two Stanley Cups on his resume, so you cannot count him out, but Jarry has pedigree as well (first goalie taken in his draft class) and has been the better goalie this season.
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Will the Oilers get McDavid and Draisaitl some help?
Perry Nelson, USATI
The Oilers have wasted the first part of the careers for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, making the playoffs just one time in four years. Everything the team does has always been dependent on these two carrying the offense, and that has not changed this season. Thanks to a fast start, the Oilers have managed to stay in the playoff hunt but are far from a lock to make the postseason. What they still desperately need is more secondary scoring to take some of the pressure off the big two. If McDavid and Draisaitl don’t score, no one does, and that is no way for a team to contend for a championship.
Despite the rough start to the Detroit Red Wings‘ 2019-20 season, the 24-year-old forward is on pace to top his stats from last season — currently leading his team with 15 goals and 31 points.
Bertuzzi won’t be the only first-timer at this year’s event in St. Louis though, as players such as Dougie Hamilton and Frederik Andersen also will be making their All-Star debuts. And there could be even more newbies going with them.
Fans still have time to cast their Last Men In votes, and there are 10 candidates from across the NHL who are looking for their first tickets to the midseason spectacle.
Here’s what makes these 10 candidates deserving of their first All-Star bid.
Cale Makar – Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche The rookie defenseman exploded onto the scene when he joined the Avs during last season’s playoffs and is making a strong case to win the Calder Trophy through his first regular-season campaign. Heck, if he hadn’t missed eight games due to an upper-body injury, he would probably be leading all rookies in scoring.
Not only would a trip to the All-Star Game be a nice way to top off Makar’s first season in the pros, but it also would be nice to see a new face on this year’s Central Division squad.
Mitch Marner – Forward, Toronto Maple Leafs As with all things Maple Leafs, it made headlines last year when Marner was denied participation in the ASG festivities in San Jose. The young forward took the rebuff well, however, and he is back in the mix yet again this time around.
The 22-year-old leads the Leafs with 29 assists, and his 40 points are second only to Auston Matthews, who has already earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nod.
Dallas Stars fans received some clarity Friday on the abrupt and unexpected firing of former head coach Jim Montgomery back on December 10. At the time, the team would only state that Montgomery was dismissed for “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with [its] core values and beliefs.” Now, information has finally emerged that can begin to fill the holes of the mysterious situation and the club’s vague response. Montgomery released a public statement Friday, announcing that he is entering an inpatient residential program for alcohol abuse, implying that this led to his firing, which he says was “the appropriate call”:
“Losing my job as head coach of the Dallas Stars last month was a wake-up call. It was also the appropriate call. I let the team’s front office, staff and players down. More importantly, I let my wife and my family down. The team’s decision to end my role forced me to look into the mirror and decide whether I wanted to continue living a damaging lifestyle or get help. I decided to get help. I turned to professionals in the field of alcohol abuse for their guidance and counseling. It has been an overwhelming and a very humbling experience knowing that I am not alone.
“Today, with the unconditional support of my wife and family, and many close friends, I took another step forward by admitting myself into an inpatient residential program, where I intend to take the steps to be a better husband, father, friend, coach and mentor – one day at a time.”
Whether or not his alcoholism is the only factor that contributed to Montgomery’s firing — and it is doubtful that those full details will ever be disclosed — it seems that the loss of his job has inspired Montgomery to make positive changes in his life. His former employer continues to support him in this pursuit as well, as Dallas GM Jim Nill stated Friday that the organization is “supportive of this decision by Jim and we hope that by pursuing this help, he and his family will be stronger for it.” We here at PHR certainly wish him well in his path toward recovery.
Meanwhile, the Stars have continued to excel under new head coach Rick Bowness. Dallas is 6-3-1 since the change behind the bench and have shaken off the early-season struggles. The team is now on pace for a 100-point season and could make waves in the postseason. Bowness, currently the interim head coach, is likely to shed that “interim” tag before too long with the way he has the Stars playing. Both he and the team deserve credit for not allowing the ongoing issues with Montgomery and the subsequent distraction of his firing to derail their season.
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 1/3/20
It was an incredible decade for the NHL that saw a new team enter the league and immediately become a Stanley Cup contender, an old NHL city get a new NHL team and some dramatic shifts to the balance of power in the league thanks to a series of blockbuster trades and free agent signings. We continue our look back at the past decade with the top 25 NHL stories from the 2010s. See which ones make the cut.
1 of 25
The NHL returns to Winnipeg
Terrence Lee, USATI
After two decades without the NHL, Winnipeg finally got its own team again when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated north for the start of the 2011-12 season. Fans flocked to the arena and created one of the most intense home-ice advantages in the league, but the team rarely provided much excitement on the ice. The Jets basically continued to play like the Thrashers, only in a different uniform and in a different city. That finally changed during the 2017-18 season when they won the first postseason game in franchise history (Atlanta or Winnipeg) and reached the Western Conference Final before losing to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games.
2 of 25
Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup
Geoff Burke, USATI
It was starting to look like it may never happen for Ovechkin and the Capitals. After winning three Presidents’ Trophies and then falling short in the playoffs every time and never being able to get past the second round or the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps finally broke through during the 2017-18 season and exorcised all of their postseason demons. They beat the Penguins, they overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Final, for once they were the ones who had the hot goalie, and all of the breaks finally went their way at the right time. Now they have their championship, and no one can ever take it away from them.
3 of 25
Another lockout canceled half a season
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
No sport has struggled with labor peace more than the NHL, and less than a decade after losing an entire season (2004-05) to a work stoppage, the NHL lost another half season in 2012-13 to the third lockout of the Gary Bettman era. The 2012-13 season ended up being a 48-game campaign (similar to the 1994-95 season, also cut short by a lockout) and saw the Chicago Blackhawks win the second of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era.
4 of 25
The Vegas Golden Knights become an immediate Stanley Cup contender
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This is probably one of the most unbelievable stories in the history of the NHL, let alone the past decade. When the NHL expanded to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season, there were a lot of critics who wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights would be a success. On the ice, expectations were understandably low because they were an expansion team. But their immediate success turned Vegas into one of the hottest tickets in the league. The Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender since Day 1 and reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals.
5 of 25
Sidney Crosby’s head and neck injuries
David Dermer, USATI
The best player of the generation had the majority of his peak years crushed by a concussion and neck injury that limited him to just 99 out of a possible 224 games between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 season. It all started with a two-game sequence in 2010-11 with hits from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman that cut short what was his best season. Crosby’s career speaks for itself, and he will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in the NHL, but it still feels like we were robbed of fully seeing him at his absolute best.
6 of 25
John Tavares goes home
John E. Sokolowski, USATI
The biggest free agency saga of the past decade had to be John Tavares, the longtime face of the New York Islanders franchise, leaving the team in the summer of 2018 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown club. It gave the Maple Leafs an incredibly talented core and raised the expectations in Toronto to Stanley Cup or bust. Meanwhile, expectations were at an all-time low for the Islanders, but they rebounded under the leadership of new coach Barry Trotz and actually advanced further than the Maple Leafs in the playoffs.
7 of 25
Barry Trotz leaves the Capitals to join the Islanders
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the Capitals finally breaking through, but it’s big enough of a move that it deserves its own recognition. Trotz became the first coach since Mike Keenan in 1994 to leave a Stanley Cup-winning team the following season. The reason: The Capitals and Trotz could not come to terms on a new contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. He ended up being hired by the New York Islanders and helped orchestrate one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in recent league history.
8 of 25
Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston
Greg M. Cooper, USATI
With their Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins finally brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time since the 1971-72 season. It was the start of a great run for the Bruins that saw them reach two more Stanley Cup Finals in the next decade. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask were at the center of that run.
9 of 25
The Penguins go back-to-back
Aaron Doster, USATI
It had been nearly two decades since a team won the Stanley Cup in consecutive years when the Penguins accomplished the feat during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. What made their run so stunning is that it came at a time when everyone had started to close their championship window in the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang era. The Pens needed a coaching change, some major trades and a couple of in-season call-ups in 2015-16 to start their run, but all of it together reopened their window and produced two more Stanley Cups.
10 of 25
Minnesota breaks the bank on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter
Brad Rempel, USATI
On July 4, 2012, the Minnesota Wild made their boldest series of moves ever when they signed the top two free agents on the market — Parise and Suter — to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. This was during the time period when NHL teams were handing out mega-long-term, front-loaded contracts to reduce the salary cap hits over the term of the deal. How did this work out for Minnesota? Probably not as they expected. The Wild have been a consistent playoff team but have never made it beyond the second round and only twice made it out of the first round in the Parise-Suter era. Both players are now in their mid-30s and still have five years remaining after this season on their deals.
11 of 25
Ilya Kovalchuk leaves for the KHL
Orlando Ramirez, USATI
The New Jersey Devils reached the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Final and were so close to winning another championship thanks in large part to the play of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Within two years, everything fell apart for them. Parise left in free agency for Minnesota following the season, and then one year later Kovalchuk, in the middle of a mega-contract with the Devils, abruptly announced his retirement from the NHL and returned to the KHL. He spent more than five seasons playing in the KHL before returning to the NHL before the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
12 of 25
Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville
Patrick Gorski, USATI
After winning three Stanley Cups and helping put together one of the most successful teams of the salary cap era, the Blackhawks decided to part ways with Quenneville, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league, early in the 2018-19 season. It was stunning just because of how successful Quenneville was and how many problems the Blackhawks seemed to have had beyond the coach. Quenneville ended up joining the Florida Panthers the following offseason, while the Blackhawks have continued to take steps backward as their championship window rapidly slams shut.
13 of 25
The Blues go from worst to first
Winslow Townson, USATI
One year after the Capitals finally kicked down the Stanley Cup door, the St. Louis Blues did the same, erasing years of disappointment and misery for their fans. The Blues also made it difficult on themselves, going from the worst record in the Western Conference in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June. As if that was not crazy enough, the player who helped spark the turnaround was Jordan Binnington, a rookie goalie who started the season as a backup…in the American Hockey League.
14 of 25
The Taylor Hall trade
Ed Mulholland, USATI
On the afternoon of June 29, 2016, there were three major roster transactions across the NHL in a span of 60 minutes that dramatically shook the landscape of the league. The first was the Oilers trading Hall, at the time their best player and one of the best left wingers in the league, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. It was a one-for-one trade, and it stunned pretty much everyone outside of the Oilers front office that the return was so little. Hall went on to win the league MVP two years later, while Larsson has been nothing more than a solid but unspectacular second-pairing defender. It was one of the most one-sided trades of the decade.
15 of 25
The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI
This was the other massive trade on June 29, 2016. After years of trade rumors and speculation that they might do it, the Canadiens finally traded Subban, one of the most popular players to play for the team in generations, to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one deal for Shea Weber. It was a curious move because Weber was older, had a worse contract and probably wasn’t as good as Subban at the time. But the Canadiens wanted to shake things up and make a bold move, so they did. Weber is still a good player when healthy, but he has started to break down. Subban, meanwhile, helped lead the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He was then traded to New Jersey two years later.
16 of 25
Paul Holmgren breaks up the Flyers for Ilya Bryzgalov
Len Redkoles, Getty
The Flyers’ quest to find a franchise goalie took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2011 when general manager Paul Holmgren, never one to shy away from a bold trade, traded his two core players (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter) to retool his team around Bryzgalov, signing the goalie to a massive contract. While the Carter and Richards trades brought a lot of talent to Philadelphia, the Bryzgalov contract was a complete disaster that ended in a buyout two years later. Richards and Carter were also reunited in Los Angeles and helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups. The Flyers have made the playoffs just four times in eight years and made it out of the first round just one time.
17 of 25
The Shea Weber offer sheet
John Russell, Getty
Everybody loves to talk about the potential a restricted free agent offer sheet every offseason, but they almost never happen. And when they do, they almost always get matched. The most intriguing offer sheet of the past decade came in 2012 when the Flyers signed restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $100 million offer sheet. It was just one year after the Flyers overhauled their team for Bryzgalov and was another insanely bold move. The Predators, having already lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in free agency, had no choice but to match the offer. It produced a ton of “what if” scenarios. What would the Predators have done with the draft pick compensation? How would the Flyers build around that contract? Would it inspire other offer sheets in the future?
18 of 25
The Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons
Rick Osentoski, USATI
Between the 1990-91 and 2015-16 seasons the Detroit Red Wings were a mainstay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, qualifying in each of the 25 years and being one of the most stable, consistent and successful franchises in all of professional sports. They reached the Stanley Cup Final six times, won it four times and were always in contention. That run finally came to an end during the 2016-17 season and has started a new streak: missing the playoffs. Barring a miracle turnaround, the Red Wings are on track to miss for the fourth consecutive season and given the makeup of their roster, there does not seem to be much hope of this new streak coming to an end anytime soon.
19 of 25
The great tank battle of 2014-15
Timothy T. Ludwig, USATI
At the start of the 2014-15 season, everyone in the NHL knew there were two elite prospects at the top of the 2015 draft: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. This was also a time when the team with the worst record in the league was guaranteed one of the top two picks in the draft, which meant at least one of these two potential franchise players. The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were in a year-long race to the basement that actually saw Sabres fans enthusiastically cheering for the Coyotes in a late-season game. The Sabres ended up finishing with the league’s worst record but lost the draft lottery. They picked second and ended up with Eichel. Arizona, meanwhile, was the biggest loser; they picked third and selected Dylan Strome. The Edmonton Oilers moved ahead of both teams and won the right to pick McDavid. The NHL ended up changing the draft lottery rules a few years later.
20 of 25
The Oilers win four draft lotteries in six years — including Connor McDavid
Perry Nelson, USATI
On the ice the Oilers have been the least successful team in the NHL over the past decade, and their only consistent success has been getting some great luck in the draft lottery. They won the top pick in 2010, 2011, 2012 and then again in 2015. Those picks turned out to be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Connor McDavid. The latter was the big one and it infuriated fans — and teams — across the league because of the way the Oilers squandered their previous draft lottery successes. Edmonton being gifted the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby seemed to be laughably unfair. And just as they did with the previous picks, the Oilers have failed to build a consistently competitive team around him.
21 of 25
The Department of Player Safety
Tom Szczerbowski, USATI
The NHL had a major head shot problem. Marc Savard’s career was ended by a brutal hit from Matt Cooke. David Booth’s career was derailed by a similar hit from Mike Richards. There was nothing the league could do about them because they were, at the time, legal hockey plays. The addition of Rule 48, focusing on hits to the head, as well as the creation of the Department of Player Safety (led by Brendan Shanahan) at the beginning of the 2011-12 season was supposed to help put a stop to such plays. Suspensions rapidly increased and, eventually, targeted hits to the head started to decline. It is not a perfect system and there are flaws with consistency and enforcement, but things are dramatically better than they used to be.
22 of 25
Raffi Torres checks his way out of the league
Rocky W. Widner, Getty Images
Torres was one of the most notorious headhunters in the league and was the recipient of some massive suspensions for his constant reckless play. He was given a 25-game ban for an egregious hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was banned for an entire series one year later and then in 2015 earned his most significant suspension when he was given a 41- game ban for a preseason hit on Jakob Silfverberg. He never played another game in the NHL.
23 of 25
John Scott: NHL All-Star
Aaron Doster, USATI
The NHL has tried everything to make the All-Star game exciting: fantasy drafts, North America vs. The World, and the current 3-on-3 mini-tournament. The latter seems to be the most successful attempt, and it hit its peak during the 2015-16 season when longtime enforcer John Scott was voted into the game by fans. The league tried to talk him out of playing (which did not go over well). He not only played, but he also ended up stealing the show and recording a hat trick in the game.
24 of 25
The Olympic debate
Pool Photo, USATI
Starting with the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL had been sending its best players to the Winter Olympics every four years, producing an incredible best vs. best tournament. That run ended during the 2018 games, and it remains unclear when, or if, the NHL players will ever go back. The NHL seems determined to make the World Cup of Hockey work and serve as a replacement for the Olympics, but neither the players nor fans seem to share that same level of excitement.
25 of 25
Columbus stuns Tampa Bay
Aaron Doster, USATI
This was probably the biggest NHL upset of the decade. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins, had the league MVP and scoring champion, a Vezina Trophy winner in goal, a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a Jack Adams-caliber coach behind the bench. It was supposed to be their year to win it all. They not only did not do that, but they also did not win a single playoff game, getting swept in Round 1 by a No. 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets team. It was the Blue Jackets’ first-ever postseason series win, and it came after a bold decision at the trade deadline to go all in. Instead of trading pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets instead added more in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. It gave the city a taste of success but quickly fizzled in Round 2 and over the summer when all of the free agents departed.
The Columbus Blue Jackets announced they have placed Oliver Bjorkstrand on injured reserve. The forward is expected to miss four to six weeks due to a rib/cartilage contusion with an oblique strain, an injury he received during the team’s 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Bjorkstrand suffered the injury in the third period of the game when he was cross-checked by the Devils’ Damon Severson. He left the game and did not return. It’s a severe blow for an injury-plagued Columbus team. The Blue Jackets now have seven players on injured reserve and 10 total players injured, including Josh Anderson (shoulder), Cam Atkinson (lower body), Emil Bemstrom (ribs), Brandon Dubinsky (wrist), Sonny Milano (upper body), Ryan Murray (lower body), Markus Nutivaara (upper body), David Savard (illness) and Andrew Peeke (hand).
The injury is even more significant considering Bjorkstrand has been red-hot recently, scoring four goals in the last five games and moving into a tie with Pierre Luc-Dubois for the scoring lead with 12 goals, two of which came during Saturday’s victory over the Devils. He has 12 goals and 23 points and was on target to break career highs in several categories. The 24-year-old is also tied for 17th in the NHL with 122 shots.
The team recalled Nathan Gerbe from the Cleveland Monsters on an emergency basis. The 32-year-old veteran hasn’t played in the NHL since appearing in two games during the 2017-18 season, but the quick-moving veteran has eight goals and 25 points in 30 games for the Monsters.