On Tap For Today — Detroit at Boston; 7:00 pm EDT; SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, NESN, BSDET | Tampa Bay at Toronto; 7:00 pm EDT; TSN4, BSSUN | NY Islanders at Montreal; 7:00 pm EDT; TSN2, RDS, MSG+ | Vegas at Ottawa; 7:00 pm EDT; TSN5, RDS2, ATTSN-RM | Washington at Florida; 7:00 pm EDT; BSFL, NBCSWA | Philadelphia at Pittsburgh; 7:00 pm EDT; ATTSN-PT, NBCSP | Dallas at Calgary; 7:00 pm MDT; SNW, BSSW | Buffalo at Seattle; 7:00 pm PDT; ROOT-NW, MSG-B | St. Louis at San Jose; 7:30 pm PDT; NBCSCA, BSMW
Last Night’s News 📰
IM-PEKKA-BLE: Long-time Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will be the first player to have his number retired, the club announced on Wednesday. Rinne, the franchise leader in games, wins, and shutouts, will see his number 35 raised to the rafters of Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 24, 2022, ahead of the Preds’ game against the Dallas Stars.
CROSBY CAN’T CATCH A BREAK: After finally making his season debut following offseason wrist surgery, Sidney Crosby has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol yesterday. He has only appeared in one game for the Penguins so far this season, and the earliest he can return to the team is Nov. 13, 2021. The good news for Sid the Kid is his symptoms are mild, so we hope he will be back on the ice soon.
AN EXPENSIVE TRIP: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban was fined $15,000 by the NHL for tripping Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2, 2021. It’s worth noting this is the second time Subban has been fined by the league and no penalty was called on the play during Tuesday night’s game.
HURRICANE WATCH: Carolina remained unbeaten to start the 2021-22 season, coming back from being down 3-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks to improve to 9-0-0 on the year. Alex DeBrincat scored twice and Patrick Kane added a tally as the Hawks jumped out to an early lead, but the Canes scores two goals in a span of 3:09 to open the third period and Freddy Andersen closed the door the rest of the way.
Top-Shelf Thursday – Top Charitable Players
Continuing with Morning Skate’s theme of giving thanks, this week’s Top-Shelf segment will highlight some of our favorite charitable players around the league. If you’re interested in giving back this season, check out NHLPA.com to read about various initiatives and charities.
Mikael Backlund – Lily’s Legacy
You may want to get your tissues ready for this one. After losing their beloved dog Lily, Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames and his wife Frida created “Lily’s Legacy.” Their organization works to keep pets and families together by subsidizing necessary pet care to low-income individuals.
Adam Henrique & Brandon Montour – Henrique Montour Foundation
These former teammates decided to team up with the Arnold Anderson Sport Fund’s “Sponsor A Child” campaign. The fund, based in Brantford and Brant County, provides financial assistance for registration fees in youth sports. Their inaugural charity golf tournament raised over $70,000, which will help 200 local kids be able to register and play a sport this year.
P.K. Subban – P.K.’s Blueline Buddies
P.K. Subban is arguably the most charitable player in the NHL. In 2015, he made a promise to raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital by 2022. Subban also created P.K.’s “Blueline Buddies” during his time in Nashville, with a focus on building better relations between law enforcement and inner-city youth. When Subban was traded from Nashville to New Jersey, he brought along his Blueline Buddies initiative to the Garden State.
I Just Need Some (Cap) Space
According to the THW Salary Cap Information page, just 11 teams have a significant chunk (read: $2 million or more) of cap space that hasn’t been created through players placed on long-term injury reserve (LTIR). That leaves 21 teams that are pushing near or above the NHL’s $81.5 million cap limit. For most of those teams, the crunch they’re feeling won’t ease any time soon, as long-term contracts continue to get signed and the salary cap doesn’t appear poised to increase substantially, if at all, next season.
Here’s a look at three cap-crunched clubs with a significant pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) and how each team might handle things.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Jack Campbell
Why He’ll Stay
Toronto’s commitment to their “core four” has forced a number of exits over the years, including James van Riemsdyk and Zach Hyman. But just as Morgan Rielly was deemed essential to their future success, so too is Campbell. Ask any Leafs fan how they feel right now about Petr Mrázek as the starter in net.
Why He’ll Go
Campbell’s new contract this summer promises to be appreciably higher than the $1.65 million sweetheart deal he’s currently on. Unfortunately for Toronto, there is no clear area of the roster where fat can be cut, especially with so many players sporting low-end or veteran minimum deals.
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Why He’ll Stay
Bergeron is a foundational player who has earned the right to remain in Boston for as long as he wishes. Surely something can be worked out between the four-time Selke winner and the only NHL team he’s ever played for.
Why He’ll Go
While I don’t think he’s necessarily going anywhere, the Bergeron negotiation in Boston could get interesting. He hasn’t slowed down, so no one would fault him for asking for the nearly $7 million he approached on his current deal. But the B’s have $68 million in committed salary for next year, with RFA Jake DeBrusk still to sign and David Pastrnak in need of an extension. Plus, Bergeron will be 37 soon after free agency opens, casting doubts on a lengthy deal.
Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights
Why He’ll Stay
Smith is off to a slow start to the 2021-22 season, but the Vegas original maintains remarkable chemistry with Jonathan Marchessault and the currently injured William Karlsson. There might just be enough room to keep the 30-year-old in the fold.
Why He’ll Go
As we’ve seen with Marc-André Fleury and Nate Schmidt, the Golden Knights front office hasn’t hesitated to part with key contributors if doing so is in the best interest of the organization. If club brass feels that they can get similar production out of a player further down the lineup, such as Evgenii Dadonov, then it could be time to say goodbye to Smith.
First to Be Remembered
Yesterday, the Nashville Predators announced that Pekka Rinne will be the first player in franchise history to have his jersey retired, which will take place on Feb 24, 2022. It makes sense, as he is the best goaltender to ever suit up for the organization and was the first elite player to be associated with the Preds. It is quite fascinating to think about, so we here at Morning Skate decided to look at other teams in the NHL and see who the first player’s jersey was to be retired by their respective franchise. Let’s start with the current division leaders and pay tribute to the first jersey to be retired by each team.
Ron Francis (Carolina Hurricanes)
After moving with the team from Hartford to Carolina, the Hurricanes retired Francis’ No. 10 jersey on Jan 28, 2006, and there were very few fans, if any, that disagreed with this decision. He scored 382 goals and 1,175 points in his career with Hartford/Carolina, which leads the Hurricanes in both categories. It was a busy two years of his life at that time for the current Seattle Kraken general manager, as he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame a year later in 2007.
Al Hamilton (Edmonton Oilers)
Wayne Gretzky was not the first player to have his number retired by the Oilers, which is one Edmonton record that he cannot say he holds. Instead, it was Al Hamilton that was recognized, and deservedly so, as he showcased Edmonton on a national level and helped usher the team into the NHL. He ranks 13th all-time in games played for the World Hockey Association (WHA), along with being 15th in assists and 40th in points. His No. 3 was retired by the franchise following his final season, and he remains the only Oilers player that was not a member of the 1980s teams to have his jersey retired.
Roberto Luongo (Florida Panthers)
For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers retired Luongo’s No. 1 jersey on March 7, 2020, prior to a game against the Montreal Canadiens. Luongo spent 20 seasons in the NHL, including 11 seasons with the Panthers organization, which bookended his stint with the Vancouver Canucks.
Bob Gassoff (St. Louis Blues)
Bob Gassoff’s jersey retirement story is quite sad, as he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1977 at the age of 24. His No. 3 was retired by the Blues organization, marking the first time the franchise had done so after he only played four seasons for the Blues prior to the accident. It’s not always a positive memory for fans when a jersey retirement happens, but the Gassoff situation was a moment for the community to come together.