Colorado could get some help for Sunday’s sixth game against the Lightning. Speaking with reporters today including NHL.com’s Tracey Myers, head coach Jared Bednar indicated that winger Andre Burakovsky will accompany the Avalanche to Tampa Bay and is a possibility to play in that contest. The 27-year-old suffered what is believed to be a hand injury in the second game of the series, taking away one of their key secondary scorers. After recording 61 points in the regular season, Burakovsky has eight in a dozen playoff contests so far. Officially, he remains listed as day-to-day.
After a disheartening 6-2 loss in Game 3, the Colorado Avalanche could get a huge momentum swing back in their favor tonight in the Stanley Cup Final. The Athletic’s Peter Baugh reports that, as of practice this morning, the team plans for center Nazem Kadri to return to the lineup for Game 4. Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater adds separately that Kadri is “definitely” playing tonight.
Per Baugh, Kadri skated with the regulars at practice this morning while right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel skated with the healthy scratches. Barring any setbacks for Kadri during warmups, Aube-Kubel will likely draw out for Kadri to return.
Kadri hasn’t played since suffering a hand injury just 37 seconds into his first shift of Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. The hit by Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane, which forced Kadri’s hand awkwardly into the endboards, sidelined the Avalanche forward for two and a half weeks. Kane earned a one-game suspension on the play as the Avalanche completed their four-game sweep of the Oilers without either Kane or Kadri on the ice.
Despite the injury and the time missed, Kadri remains tied for fifth in playoff scoring on the Avalanche with six goals, eight assists, and 14 points in 13 games. It’s a repeat of his previous playoff success in an Avalanche uniform, as he tallied 18 points in 15 games during the team’s time in the 2020 playoff bubble.
Not only does Kadri’s return provide a gigantic boost to the Colorado offense on its own, it also causes a positive cascading effect on the team’s depth. J.T. Compher, who’s been an excellent energy forward for the team in recent games, will likely return to a bottom-six role, bolstering their ability to counterstrike against Tampa’s stellar veteran depth.
One of the most speculated-about scenarios at every trade deadline is one where a team, out of the playoff race, trades away an important pending free agent only to re-sign him a few months later. After all, why not lease the player for a nice deadline return of future assets, that make the team even stronger upon his return.
In practice, this rarely happens. Those deadline additions are either extended by their new team or reach free agency and suddenly find themselves surrounded by new suitors.
This year, it appears the Anaheim Ducks will be trying to pull off the unlikely scenario of bringing back a sold-off veteran. Pierre LeBrun reports on TSN’s Insider Trading that Anaheim has an interest in a reunion with Josh Manson, once his run to the Stanley Cup Final is finished with the Colorado Avalanche.
Manson, 30, has been a nice addition for the Avalanche, giving their defense corps some additional snarl while adding some nice (and likely unexpected) offense at key moments. As LeBrun notes though, it will be very difficult for Colorado to retain him, given how many other free agents they have on the roster–some of which they’re hoping to sign after the playoffs come to an end.
Meanwhile, Manson had seen his reputation around the league take a bit of a hit in recent years, as his minutes and effectiveness waned in Anaheim. That doesn’t mean the Ducks are done with him though, as he is extremely well-liked in that dressing room and could still be a nice veteran piece to help the team transition into the next phase of their build.
Currently carrying a $4.1MM cap hit, it will be interesting to see what Manson can command on the open market. His playoff performance has only driven his value back up but defensemen who don’t offer much offensively rarely get big paydays–at least in relative terms–in free agency.
While there were five awards handed out on Tuesday, there is still one more to be announced. That one is the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award. It’s voted on by all 32 NHL GMs as well as some NHL executives at the end of the second round. Not surprisingly, all three of the finalists, who were named during the NHL Awards show, were among the four to help lead their teams to the conference finals including Julien BriseBois of the Lightning, Chris Drury of the Rangers, and Joe Sakic of the Avalanche. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello won the award a year ago. The winner for this won’t be announced until partway through the first round of the draft next month in Montreal.
More news from awards night:
- Following the televised portion of the awards, the league announced its All-Rookie team. Boston’s Jeremy Swayman was the goaltender, Nashville’s Alexandre Carrier and Detroit’s Moritz Seider were the defensemen, while Toronto’s Michael Bunting, Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras, and Detroit’s Lucas Raymond comprised the forward group. Seider was the only unanimous choice from the group.
- The NHL also announced its two All-Star teams. Igor Shesterkin (Rangers) was the goalie on the first team and was joined by Roman Josi (Predators), Cale Makar (Avalanche), Johnny Gaudreau (Flames), and Maple Leafs teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Matthews, Gaudreau, and Shesterkin are on the top team for the first time while it was the second nod for the other three.
- The second All-Star team had a pair of Flames in goaltender Jacob Markstrom and winger Matthew Tkachuk. They were joined by defensemen Charlie McAvoy (Bruins) and Victor Hedman (Lightning), winger Jonathan Huberdeau (Panthers), and center Connor McDavid (Oilers).
On Tuesday, the final five NHL awards are being handed out. The second-last award of the night was the James Norris Memorial Trophy, handed out to the NHL’s best defenseman. This year’s winner is Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar. The other finalists were Predators blueliner Roman Josi and Lightning rearguard Victor Hedman.
Makar led all defensemen in goals this season with 28, becoming just the fifth blueliner in the last 30 years to get that many goals. He also finished second in points (86) to Josi, who had 96. While thought of as an offense-first defender, Makar took a regular turn on Colorado’s penalty kill this season as well which helped him average 25:40 per contest. While this voting doesn’t cover his playoff performance, the 23-year-old has been dominant in the postseason as well, picking up 26 points in 17 games while his ATOI has jumped up to a little under 27 minutes a night.
Interestingly enough, Makar actually finished second to Josi in first-place votes, 98-92. However, Makar had 22 more second-place selections (98-72) which helped him garner 25 more voting points to secure the victory. He was also the only player to appear on all 195 ballots with Josi not being put on one of them. It’s the closest vote for this award since the 2011-12 campaign when Erik Karlsson edged Shea Weber for the award. Only one other blueliner, Boston’s Charlie McAvoy, received a first-place vote.
The full results of the voting can be found here.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to respond with a strong effort in game three last night to pull closer in their series against the Colorado Avalanche, but it wasn’t without a cost. Nikita Kucherov and several others left the game at various points with injuries, though it seems they may have escaped without too much issue. Today, head coach Jon Cooper explained to reporters including Joe Smith of The Athletic that though it is not yet certain, he expects Kucherov to play in game four.
Here are a couple of other notes from the Stanley Cup Final:
- Devon Toews, whose cross-check was the reason Kucherov left the game in the first place, is not expected to receive any supplementary discipline from the league. Smith notes that the league felt the play was properly penalized by the on-ice officials, who gave Toews a two-minute minor. It was not the only borderline play in the game but since the Department of Player Safety has not yet issued any hearings, it’s safe to say that there aren’t any suspensions expected from last night.
- Brayden Point, who missed game three and was replaced by Riley Nash, is doubtful for game four. The 26-year-old forward played in both of the first two games of the series but is still dealing with the injury that took him out of round one against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Point recorded just one shot through those first two games and was a shadow of the dominant player he can be at full strength.
Just across the ice, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be without forwards Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky for Game Three. Both players were also listed as day-to-day, Kadri still recovering from a hand injury, and subsequent surgery, suffered in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals when he was boarded by the Edmonton Oilers’ Evander Kane. Burakovsky, who sustained an upper-body injury at the start of the second period of Game Two against Tampa Bay, did not travel with the team to Florida, but has since joined the rest of the group, so his status for Game Four is still up in the air it would appear. Forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel will take Burakovsky’s place in the lineup.
The Colorado Avalanche had Nazem Kadri back on the ice today, doing some light stickhandling and shooting following his thumb surgery earlier in the playoffs. The pending free agent center has been out since game three against the Edmonton Oilers and is now listed as day-to-day by head coach Jared Bednar.
The Colorado Avalanche lead the Tampa Bay Lightning two-to-nothing in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, and a major reason for their lead has been the play of winger Valeri Nichushkin. The Russian winger, who once went 91 straight games without scoring a goal, scored two goals last night on top of a goal and an assist in Game One to raise his total to four points in the first two games of the series. Nichushkin has been a revelation in Colorado since returning to the NHL after a two-year KHL stint, and the former Dallas Stars top-ten pick had 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games. That performance has led many to believe that Nichushkin, a pending unrestricted free agent, will earn a long, lucrative contract this summer.
According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Avalanche are hoping he can find a contract he likes in Colorado. Per Friedman, Colorado has “made him a priority” and have indicated to Nichushkin that they “would like to keep him.” The Avalanche have to hope that Nichushkin values his incredible fit in Colorado more than making the absolute most amount of money he can on his next deal. With Nathan MacKinnon’s inevitable mega-extension on the horizon and potential long-term deals for Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, Andre Burakovsky, and Artturi Lehkonen to consider this offseason, the Avalanche may not be in a position to offer Nichushkin the sort of money he could be offered from elsewhere. So while we don’t yet know exactly what Nichushkin is looking for this summer, we know the Avalanche are going to try their absolute best to keep him.
Now, for some other notes regarding Colorado:
- Another important pending UFA in Colorado is winger Burakovsky, and like Nichushkin he has also had a strong start to the Stanley Cup Final. Burakovsky, who was once a healthy scratch in these playoffs, has three points against the Lightning so far, including two points last night despite missing a solid chunk of the game due to an injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar issued an update on Burakovsky’s injury today, saying that the winger did not travel with the team to Tampa, is undergoing further evaluation, and will join the team in Tampa tomorrow. While the Avalanche have a commanding lead in the series, the team is already without crucial players in Kadri and Samuel Girard, so they have to hope that whatever Burakovsky is dealing with won’t keep him out for long.
- Speaking of Kadri, while it was once believed that he would be out for a period that would in all likelihood stretch past the end of the Avalanche’s season, that may no longer be the case. Bednar said today, per Joe Smith of The Athletic, that Kadri flew with the team to Tampa and is “hopeful” that he’ll play in the series. He said that he considered Kadri out “day-to-day” as well. The Avalanche are looking to capture the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001, and are getting closer. But they have to know that the Lightning, the back-to-back defending champions, won’t go down without a fight. Getting Kadri back would go a long way towards giving the Avalanche the unshakeable confidence they’ll need to finish the job and end the Lightning’s time at the top of the league.
Colorado might get a veteran back in the lineup tonight as head coach Jared Bednar told reporters including NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin that winger Andrew Cogliano could be an option to return. The 35-year-old underwent hand surgery to repair an injury sustained during the Western Conference Final but returned to practice on Friday and participated in the morning skate today. Cogliano, who leads all Colorado players in terms of the number of playoff games played, has two goals and an assist in 11 games so far this postseason while logging a little more than nine minutes a night of action. If Cogliano is able to return, Nicolas Aube-Kubel may be the one to cede his spot.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
- In an appearance on ESPN’s The Point on Friday (video link), commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged that former Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville has expressed a desire to return to the NHL though not for a specific job opening. At the time of Quenneville’s resignation following the findings of the Kyle Beach investigation being released, Bettman indicated that he would “require a meeting in advance in order to determine the appropriate conditions under which such new employment might take place”. That meeting probably won’t be coming soon as Bettman added during his appearance that he doesn’t believe that this is the right time to discuss the potential of Quenneville returning to work for a team.
- In his latest reader chat, Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests that winger Klim Kostin is a likely trade candidate for the Blues this summer. Alexey Toropchenko plays a very similar style as Kostin and is someone that head coach Craig Berube is a fan of, giving Torochenko a leg up for that spot on the lineup. A 2017 first-round pick, Kostin is waiver-eligible next season but could still carry some value after picking up nine points and 90 hits in 40 games with St. Louis this season while also playing a key role for AHL Springfield as the Thunderbirds get set to start the Calder Cup Finals tomorrow.