Canadiens Game Day: Habs sticking with same lineup for Game 1 vs. Jets
Head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed after his team’s morning skate in Winnipeg that he will be keeping the same lineup for Game 1 of the North Division final against the Jets Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, SN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) that he used for the Canadiens’ Game 7 win over Toronto on Monday that eliminated the Maple Leafs. This marks the first time the Canadiens and Jets will ever meet in a playoff series. The Canadiens had a 3-3-3 record against the Jets in the regular season this year. The Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers in their first-round playoff series, winning the last three games in overtime, including a triple-OT victory in Game 4.
Over the next few weeks, we will be breaking down each team’s situation as it pertains to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Which players are eligible, who will likely warrant protection, and which ones may be on the block to avoid the risk of losing them for nothing? Each team is required to submit their protection lists by 4:00 PM CDT on July 17th. The full eligibility rules can be found here while CapFriendly has an expansion tool to make your own lists. © James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports Winnipeg Jets center Adam Lowry (17) and Winnipeg Jets center Mason Appleton (22) talk.
The Jets had a bit of an up-and-down season as they went from battling for the top spot in the North Division to backing into the playoffs. Then they went from sweeping Edmonton in the first round to being swept by Montreal in the second round. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have some decisions to make this summer as a result, including a couple of calls to make in terms of their expansion planning. In the Vegas draft, they traded down 11 spots in the first round to secure the protections of Marko Dano and Toby Enstrom. Will they need to make another protection trade this time around?
Habs win Game 1 against Jets, but lose Evans to nasty hit
Carey Price won the battle of Vézina Trophy-wining goaltenders as the Canadiens defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 in the opening game of their best-of-seven North Division final Wednesday at Bell MTS Place. Price, who was outstanding as the Canadiens rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs, continued his excellent play as he made 27 saves, while Connor Hellebuyck, who won the Vézina Trophy last year, stopped 29 shots. The win extended Montreal’s current win streak to four games. The Canadiens’ longest win streak in the regular season was three games.
Eligible Players (Non-UFA)
Forwards: Mason Appleton, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jansen Harkins, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Skyler McKenzie, Mark Scheifele, Ivan Telegin, Blake Wheeler (NMC)
Defense: Nathan Beaulieu, Dylan DeMelo, Luke Green, Josh Morrissey, Sami Niku, Nelson Nogier, Neal Pionk, Logan Stanley
Goalies: Mikhail Berdin, Connor Hellebuyck, Cole Kehler
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents
D Jordie Benn, G Laurent Brossoit, D Derek Forbort, F Mathieu Perreault, D Tucker Poolman, F Paul Stastny, F Nate Thompson, F Dominic Toninato
F David Gustafsson, D Ville Heinola, F Cole Perfetti, D Dylan Samberg, F Kristian Vesalainen
There is some intrigue on the back end for Winnipeg. There are certainly more than three players worthy of protection but at the same time, there is no case to make to shift from the typical 7 F/3 D/1 G strategy to eight skaters and a goalie.
Carey Price perfect as Canadiens win Game 2 against Jets
The anticipated goaltending duel between Vézina Trophy winners Carey Price and Connor Hellebuyck materialized Friday as the Canadiens defeated the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven North Division final. Price, who won the Vézina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in 2015, made 30 saves for his eighth playoff shutout. It was the fifth consecutive win for Price and the Canadiens. Hellebuyck, who won the Vézina last season, made 23 saves, losing his shutout when Tyler Toffoli scored a shorthanded goal in the second period. The series moves to Montreal for back-to-back games at the Bell Centre Sunday and Monday.
In terms of the obvious ones to protect, it’s Pionk and Morrissey. Those two logged heavy minutes all season while contributing a good chunk of the team's offensive production. Morrissey is already signed long-term through 2028 and it seems likely at this point that Cheveldayoff will try to get Pionk, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time, locked up to a long-term deal as well. That leaves one spot for everyone else.
DeMelo’s absence was certainly felt after exiting the series quickly against the Canadiens. While he doesn’t put up many points or even log a lot of minutes, he is a stabilizing defensive presence and penalty killer on a defense corps that is often shaky in their own zone. That’s why they handed him a four-year, $12M contract last fall and it’s unlikely their opinion of him has changed much in the last nine months. He’s clearly someone that they want around for a while. Having said that, in this cap environment, would a $3M AAV for someone who typically plays third-pairing minutes be enough to scare Seattle off to the point where not protecting him could be viable?
Jets hope to survive until Mark Scheifele returns from suspension
The 2020-21 Stanley Cup playoffs were shaping up as Mark Scheifele’s time to further establish himself as an elite centreman. But now, he’s on the sidelines after the NHL Department of Player Safety handed down a four-game suspension for charging Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans. The incident happened Wednesday with less than a minute remaining in Game 1. With Montreal leading 4-3, Evans tucked in the puck in the open Winnipeg net. Moments later, Scheifele swooped in, left his feet, and clobbered the unsuspecting Evans to the ice. "It was a dirty hit," Montreal defenceman Joel Edmundson said of Scheifele after the game.
That question is what Winnipeg will be considering when it comes to Stanley. The 23-year-old just made his NHL debut this season but he has been on an NHL contract for three years, making him eligible for selection. The 2016 first-round pick (16th overall) had a limited role but blueliners often develop slower than forwards and given his size, the learning curve was a bit steeper. If the Jets believe he’s capable of playing himself into a more prominent role over the next couple of years, it would be tough to risk losing him for nothing. And from Kraken GM Ron Francis’ perspective, Stanley is exactly the type of young player to either take a flyer on to develop or to flip in another trade.
Beaulieu and Niku are also worth a mention. Beaulieu has been serviceable on the third pairing for the last few years and with a $1.25M cap hit, he’s someone that could be picked and flipped.
Niku dominated in the AHL in 2017-18 with 54 points in 76 games and was productive in shorter stints the last couple of years. However, he hasn’t had much of an NHL opportunity yet and is someone that has been a prime change of scenery candidate for a while. His $725K cap hit will also be below the NHL minimum salary next season ($750K) which could also be appealing.
Blues' Jacob de la Rose reportedly drawing interest in Sweden
The latest report indicates that a bidding war could be coming for De La Rose’s services, one that could convince him to leave the NHL behind. © Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Could Jacob de la Rose sign in Sweden? Swedish news source Expressen reports that De La Rose has officially received a three-year contract offer from Farjestad BK, a perennial powerhouse in Sweden. While Leksands finished higher that Farjestad in the regular-season standings this year, both clubs exited in the quarterfinals.
Up front, Little looked like someone who would likely be protected just a couple of years ago but he hasn’t played since suffering a perforated eardrum back in November of 2019. While his injury hasn’t been confirmed to be career-ending, that could still change which could render him exempt from selection.
Winnipeg's other top-six forwards that are under contract should be locks for protection and after Lowry inked a five-year, $16.25M extension back in April, it’s a safe assumption that one of the remaining slots will be his. That leaves one spot and a couple of viable options in Lowry’s linemates on Winnipeg’s third line.
Copp had shown flashes of offensive improvement over the previous few seasons but took that to another level this year, setting career highs in goals (15), assists (24), points (39), and ATOI (18:15). Whenever injuries struck, Copp was often the one to move up in the lineup while playing the wing or down the middle when needed. That type of versatile player is critical for teams to have and while he’s set to earn a raise from his $2.3M qualifying offer in restricted free agency this summer in his final season of arbitration eligibility, it’s a price that Winnipeg (or Seattle, if he’s ultimately made available) would happily be willing to pay.
The other part of that trio is Appleton, whose track record isn’t quite as long. The 25-year-old was a full-time NHL player for the first time this season and he was fairly productive in a limited role, notching 12 goals and 13 assists in 56 games. Of those 25 points, all but one came at even strength. Five-on-five scoring is always highly coveted and the early indication is that Appleton is a capable contributor in that regard. He also only has a $900K cap hit through next season and productive low-cost depth is hard to come by. Being only able to protect one of Copp or Appleton will hurt.
Hurricanes' Nino Niederreiter expected to miss Game 1
The Carolina Hurricanes had a surprise lineup change just before Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday as Nino Niederreiter is expected to sit out. According to Luke DeCock of the News & Observer, the forward was injured during practice Saturday and was considered questionable for the game. Former Lightning Cedric Paquette is expected to step into the lineup to replace Niederreiter.
Projected Protection List
F Kyle Connor
F Andrew Copp
F Pierre-Luc Dubois
F Nikolaj Ehlers
F Adam Lowry
F Mark Scheifele
F Blake Wheeler (NMC)
D Dylan DeMelo
D Josh Morrissey
D Neal Pionk
G Connor Hellebuyck
Skater Exposure Requirement Checklist
When Vegas had their expansion draft, a minimum of two forwards and one defenseman had to be exposed that were under contract and played either 40 games in the most recent season or 70 over the past two combined. Due to the pandemic, those thresholds have been changed to 27 games played in 2020-21 or 54 in 2019-20 and 2020-21 combined. In creating our expansion list for each team in this series, we will ensure that these criteria are met.
Forwards (2): Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins
Defensemen (2): Nathan Beaulieu, Logan Stanley
While some teams will be losing veteran talent, it certainly feels like Winnipeg will be losing one of their younger regulars as their roster currently stands. Appleton looks like a promising late-bloomer and after being viewed as a potential bust, Stanley took an important step forward in his development this season and should be part of their future plans now. Is that enough for Cheveldayoff to make another side deal? He has roughly six weeks to make that decision.
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Related slideshow: Every NHL team's likely next retired number (Provided by Yardbarker)
'Long time coming': Health-care workers grateful for chance to watch the Winnipeg Jets in person
From the front lines to seats between the blue-lines, vaccinated health-care workers got a dose of normalcy at a Winnipeg Jets Stanley Cup playoff game. Five hundred health-care workers won a socially distanced seat as the Jets faced the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their second-round series Wednesday night, chosen lottery-style out of more than 6,000 applicants across the province. The workers only needed to bring ID cards and proof of vaccination. They lined up at the Donald and Graham street entrance of Bell MTS Place, wearing face masks and Jets jerseys.
Every NHL team's likely next retired number
There are fewer honors greater for professional sports players than a team retiring their numbers, guaranteeing that no one else will ever wear it again. Just about every team in the league has at least a handful of retired or honored numbers, and now we are going to take a look at the next player for each NHL team who should have his jersey placed in the rafters. We are excluding players whose number retirements are scheduled for this season or next season and looking only at players who have not yet been announced.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf (15)
When Getzlaf retires he is going to finish his career as the Ducks' all-time leader in games played, assists and total points while also being a Stanley Cup champion and longtime captain of the team. His peak may not have been as good as that of players like Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne, but his overall resume is as complete as any other player the franchise has ever seen.
Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23)
Playing in Arizona and on a team that has not made the playoffs often, it can be easy to overlook Ekman-Larsson. But he is an outstanding top-pairing defenseman and has been the Coyotes' best all-around player from almost the day he arrived. He is a constant threat to score 20 goals as a defenseman and is one of the most best offensive blue-liners in the entire league. At this point it still seems like a stretch to think he will one day have his number retired, but he might be the next logical choice in the future.
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron (37)
Bergeron is one of the best all-around players of his era and an all-time great Bruin. In his 16 years (and counting) with the team, he helped the Bruins win a Stanley Cup, play in two other Stanley Cup Finals, won four Selke Trophies as the league's best defensive forward and was the driving force behind one of the best defensive teams in the entire league. He's a Hall of Famer and worthy of joining all of the Bruins' all-time greats.
Calgary Flames: Theo Fleury (14)
No player has worn the No. 14 since Fleury last sported it during the 1999 season. So it is kind of a mystery as to why it has not actually been put in the rafters next to Mike Vernon's and Lanny McDonald's. Fleury helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup as a rookie during the 1988-89 season and then went on to be one of the most prolific scorers in franchise history.
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal (12)
It is easy to forget just how good Staal was in the early part of his career with the Hurricanes. He scored 40 goals two different times, was a dominant two-way player and helped bring the Stanley Cup to Raleigh during the 2005-06 season. He is the best player the franchise has had since it relocated to North Carolina and was the best player on the franchise's only championship team.
Chicago Blackhawks: Steve Larmer (28)
There are a lot of Blackhawks fans who think this should have already happened. He may not have the Stanley Cup clout that the current core of Blackhawks has (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith), but those players are all still active and years away from being in a position to have their numbers retired. Larmer is also one of the best players in franchise history and helped turn the team into a Stanley Cup contender in the early 1990s, including the 1991-92 season when it actually reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon (29)
Going far into the future here, but MacKinnon is probably going to be the next player to get this honor. The Avalanche have already retired most of the notable numbers from their championship era, and of the remaining core players from those teams (Chris Drury, Alex Tanguay) they probably did not play long enough in Colorado to warrant such an honor. MacKinnon, though, appears he is going to be with the Avalanche for the long haul and end up being one of the best players of his era. The Avalanche have a chance to bring the Stanley Cup back to Denver in the very near future, and if MacKinnon helps deliver that he will be an Avalanche legend.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash (61)
Nash does not get anywhere near enough credit for how good of a player he was. A former No. 1 overall pick, Nash became the Blue Jackets' first star player and finished as the league's leading goal-scorer in just his second season in the NHL. He was a yearly threat to score 40 goals and was an outstanding two-way player who also developed into one of the league's best penalty killers. The Blue Jackets were never really able to build anything significant around him, but it does not take away from the fact he is the best player the team has ever had.
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg (40)
You could make the argument that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk should probably both get their numbers retired together given their importance between the 2006 and 2015 seasons. They were the backbone of one of the league's best teams and among the best two-way players in the league during that time. I will give Zetterberg the edge as the player who followed Nicklas Lidstrom as team captain and for his 2008 Conn Smythe winning performance.
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid (97)
McDavid is going to be the NHL's best and most dominant player for the next decade and beyond. If the Oilers do not screw it up, he should help bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton at some point too. He will be with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey among the franchise's all-time greats.
Florida Panthers: Pavel Bure (10)
This might be a stretch because Bure spent only parts of four seasons in Florida, while several players have worn the number since he played there (including currently Brett Connolly). But there is no denying the impact Bure made. He was probably the most high-profile superstar to play for the Panthers and was the most dominant goal-scorer in the league during his time there. He finished as the league's leading goal scorer twice and averaged 0.70 goals per game with the Panthers (a 57-goal pace over 82 games). He did that during the lowest goal-scoring era in NHL history. Just for perspective, the next highest goal per game average in the NHL during that stretch was Jaromir Jagr at 0.57 goals per game (a 46-goal pace per 82 games).
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar (11)
Kopitar helped bring the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles during the 2011-12 season and then did it again two years later. While Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams and Drew Doughty got most of the accolades for those championship runs, Kopitar was the best player on all of those teams and has been the best player on the team since making his debut. He is one of the franchise icons for what he helped bring to Los Angeles.
Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu (9)
Technically the only retired number for the Wild is No. 1 — for their fans. When it comes to finally retiring a number for a player, Koivu seems like he will be at the top of the list. He has spent more than 15 seasons in Minnesota and been a truly fantastic player. He is the franchise leader in games played, assists and total points and has been a complete all-around player every year as well as the team captain for 12 seasons and counting.
Nashville Predators: David Legwand (11)
The Predators have yet to retire a number, but if anyone is deserving of such an honor at this point it might be Legwand, the original Predator. He was their first draft pick and is still the franchise's all-time leader in every major category including games played, goals, assists and total points (all by a significant margin). He was never a superstar, but he was an outstanding player who helped build the Predators into a formidable NHL franchise. That counts for something.
New Jersey Devils: Scott Gomez (23)
Gomez does not get enough credit for how good he was in the early part of his career. Between 1999 and 2007, he was an elite playmaker and one of the best forwards on a multiple Stanley Cup winner in New Jersey. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias are the other key players from that era to have their numbers retired by the Devils, and Gomez was right there with them in terms of importance.
New York Islanders: Pat LaFontaine (16)
LaFontaine just missed the Islanders dynasty, making his debut with the team during the 1983-84 season (they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final that year), but he is still one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the best American-born players of all-time.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist (30)
Lundqvist's short-term future with the Rangers remains in doubt beyond this season, but here is what is not in doubt: He is the best goalie the team has ever seen and has been the best goalie of his era. The only disappointing part of his tenure with the Rangers is that he did not win a Stanley Cup with the team. He did lead the Rangers to one Stanley Cup Final during the 2013-14 season and helped carry the team to contention almost every year he was their starting goalie.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson (65)
A true superstar during his time with the Senators, Karlsson won two Norris Trophies, was a runner-up two additional times (probably should have won the award in each of those seasons, too) and at his peak, he was the most impactful defenseman the NHL had seen since the days of Bobby Orr. He was that good in Ottawa. His best stretch came during the 2016-17 season when he almost single-handedly carried the team to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final...while playing injured. He was so good that postseason that he actually earned a Conn Smythe Trophy vote even though his team did not reach the Stanley Cup Final. That is respect. It is also dominance.
Philadelphia Flyers: Reggie Leach (27)
It might be a little late in the game for this one since 16 different players have worn the number since Leach last did, but he was a pretty significant part of Flyers history. Leach owns the franchise record for goals in a season (61) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy during their most recent Stanley Cup win in the 1974-75 season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jaromir Jagr (68)
This has to happen. There was some bitterness with the way Jagr left the Penguins two decades ago, and he was still active playing for opponents as recently as a couple of years ago, but there is no way the Penguins cannot retire this number. Jagr helped bring two Stanley Cups to Pittsburgh and was one of the two or three best players in the league (sometimes the best) for his entire tenure with the team. At worst he is the third-best player in franchise history behind only Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau (12)
Both Marleau and Joe Thornton (19) are going to have their numbers retired at some point by the Sharks. It seems like a given. But Marleau might get that honor first because he was drafted by the team and is the franchise leader in games played, goals and total points. He never won the Stanley Cup in San Jose, but he did help the team reach the Stanley Cup Final during the 2015-16 season. Not only is he one of the Sharks' franchise legends, he is one of the most underappreciated players across the league for his era.
St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo (27)
Pietrangelo has been a rock on the Blues defense for more than a decade and was the captain of the first-ever Stanley Cup winning team in franchise history. That is exactly the type of player who gets a number retired by a team. He will one day join Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger among the team's all-time great defensemen who have their numbers retired for the Blues.
Tampa Bay Lighting: Steven Stamkos (91)
Stamkos has been the second-best goal scorer of his era, trailing only Alex Ovechkin. He is already one of the greatest players in Lightning history and is one of their biggest superstars. He now also now has a Stanley Cup win on his resume. When it is all said and done, he might be the greatest player in Tampa Bay franchise history.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews (34)
The Maple Leafs have either retired or "honored" several numbers of former players and have included pretty much every noteworthy player from their past. So we will look far into the future and go with Matthews, who has already shown that he is one of the best goal-scorers in the league. If he helps bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto, his status among the team greats will forever be cemented.
Vancouver Canucks: Alexander Edler (23)
Edler has never really received a ton of national attention during his career, but he has been one of the best defensemen in the history of the franchise and a key piece during one of the most successful eras the Canucks have ever seen. Now that Henrik and Daniel Sedin have had their numbers retired, Edler might be the next logical choice in the future.
Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury (29)
When the Golden Knights acquired Fleury in the expansion draft he immediately became their franchise player. He has been the cornerstone piece of the team both on and off the ice in its first three years and helped backstop the team to the Stanley Cup Final in its first year of existence. He was one of their first players. He is their first superstar. He will be their first retired number.
Washington Capitals: Peter Bondra (12)
In the future you know Alex Ovechkin will have his No. 8 retired. That is a given. But that is still probably a decade or so away from happening, as Ovechkin still has several more dominant years ahead of him in the NHL. In the meantime, another Capitals superstar from their past is probably long overdue for having his number go to the rafters — Bondra. He is a 500-goal scorer and was an absolute superstar for the Capitals throughout the 1990s. He won two goal-scoring crowns for the Capitals and was one of the league's most dominant goal scorers between the 1990 and 2002 seasons. Given how great he was, it is kind of a surprise his number is not already retired by the Capitals.
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler (26)
The current version of the Jets (the one that moved from Atlanta in 2012) has not retired any numbers, but they do have one obvious candidate for that honor in the future. Wheeler has been one of the league's most underrated players this decade and one of the top point producers in the league. He has been the face of the franchise, their captain, their leader and the team's all-time leading point producer. Seems like a slam dunk in the future.
Canadiens Notebook: Jake Evans is out indefinitely with concussion .
Jake Evans won’t be in the lineup when the Canadiens play the Jets Friday in Game 2 of their North Division final in Winnipeg (7:30 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and it remains uncertain when he will be able to return. Head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed Thursday that Evans suffered a concussion when he was knocked out cold by a vicious check from the Jets’ Mark Scheifele after scoring an empty-net goal with 57 seconds remaining in the Canadiens’ 5-3 victory in Game 1. Evans was taken off the ice on a stretcher and will be sidelined indefinitely.