- While it was believed that he suffered a concussion back on Saturday, the Sharks are expected to have winger Joonas Donskoi back in the lineup tonight, notes Paul Gackle of The Mercury News. However, they won’t have defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic back as he’s set to miss his sixth straight game. He remains listed as day-to-day and has not yet been moved to injured reserve.
For the third year in a row, the NHL has scheduled a mandated multi-day break for each team in the middle part of the season. Meant to give each team a rest, much like the bye week in the National Football League, this break also includes limits on practice, including several days in which all team activities are prohibited. A seven-day break this season, on paper an increase from the original five-day break, the “bye week” is actually less intrusive this season than it has been in the past despite the longer length. All 31 teams will take their break either right before or right after the upcoming All-Star Weekend, with those two days counting toward the seven and simply extending what has always been a short break for non-participants. Below are the lists of teams who will take leave on one side of All-Star festivities or the other:
Before All-Star Weekend (January 20 – 24)
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
After All-Star Weekend (January 27 – 31)
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New York Islanders
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Golden Knights
How each team feels about taking an extended break in the middle of the season generally varies based on situational factors. While many players would enjoy getting to spend some time away with their families, others would rather keep the pedal to the metal mid-season. More specifically, a team that is playing well and stringing together wins would rather keep playing and not lose out on that momentum. Another team may be in a slump or struggling with injuries and desperately in need of a break. Either way, not every team will be in favor of the bye week each season.
There also remains some scheduling flaws with the mandated break, as most teams will only get the actual seven days or an eighth day off for travel, but others are set to go ten or eleven days without a contest. The “bye week” seems to be a move by the NHL that has enough support to continue in future seasons, but the league could work on sharpening the schedule so as to give teams as close to an even break as their competition as possible.
The San Jose Sharks are facing more than a few tough decisions when it comes to impending free agents this season. Fortunately, they’ve been able to get out in front of at least one set of negotiations. The Sharks have announced a two-year extension with forward Marcus Sorensen. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun adds that the new contract carries a $1.5MM cap hit.
Sorensen, 26, was set to hit the open market this summer for the first time as an established pro, but has in fact been a free agent before. Sorensen was actually a fourth-round pick by the Ottawa Senators back in 2010, but the team opted not to sign him. He remained in his native Sweden until a breakout season with Djurgardens IF in 2015-16 prompted him to examine his options in the NHL. Sorensen signed a one-year entry-level deal with San Jose and then signed a subsequent two-year extension, playing each season with the Sharks at under $1MM. Sorensen was nothing more than a part-time depth asset through his first two years, but this year is vastly outplaying his $700K price tag. The versatile bottom-six forward has a career-high 15 points and 47 games played already, having finally carved out a regular role for himself. While Sorensen possesses natural offensive instincts and stick-handling skills, he has finally embraced a more physical, high-energy game that makes him a valued depth forward.
With Sorensen signed, the Sharks have at least made a small dent in their laundry list of free agency decisions. Captain Joe Pavelski, aging legend Joe Thornton, and talented winger Joonas Donskoi are all set to be unrestricted free agents, while breakout star Timo Meier and fellow young forward Kevin Labanc are also due new contracts as restricted free agents. Of course, that’s just up front, as superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is obviously the team’s biggest question mark. The Sharks are rolling right now, winning eight of their last ten games, and are legitimate Stanley Cup threats this season. How well that pursuit goes will obviously dictate what steps they take in free agency. Yet, the team already determined that Sorensen was a player worth keeping no matter what, which says a lot about how much the team values their under-rated forward.
With rumors that the Edmonton Oilers are looking to add a quality top-six forward at the trade deadline, there is one question that keeps coming up, which is where is the money going to come from to pay that winger. The team only has $2.2MM in available cap space, which won’t be enough to acquire the type of forward they want to add. Even if a team retains some salary, the Oilers are going to be forced to move a significant salary.
However, the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins suggests that the team should look into trading goaltender Cam Talbot, whose $4.17MM salary could open up the money to acquire a top-six forward. With both of Edmonton’s goaltenders expected to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, it’s not likely the team will keep both and considering that Mikko Koskinen has a no-movement clause, Talbot would make the most sense to move to a contender who needs goaltending help. Unfortunately, Talbot’s numbers aren’t that impressive this year as he has a 3.17 GAA and a .896 save percentage – not likely to bring a significant return back.
- The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper (subscription required) debate the merits of whether the Los Angeles Kings should trade long-time goaltender Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline. With the impressive play of both Jack Campbell and Calvin Petersen, the team does have the luxury of moving Quick who could bring the team a significant return. The fact that he lacks a no-trade clause also is beneficial. However, each scribe also points out that with so many struggling teams this season, this might not be the best time to move a goaltender as there are so many of them out there. Plus, Quick’s leadership and ability to mentor both Campbell and Petersen might be invaluable to both players as well.
- Paul Gackle of the Mercury News report that the San Jose Sharks could be without forward Joonas Donskoi after he left Saturday’s game against Ottawa with an apparent head injury after taking a hit from defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period. While he returned not too long after the hit, he left immediately after that and didn’t play the final two periods. “He tried to come back. He couldn’t come back,” said head coach Peter DeBoer. Since the Sharks are off today, there will be no official update until Monday, but if the Sharks are without Donskoi for a significant amount of time, the team’s depth will be surely challenged.
- The Vegas Golden Knights chose Jonathon Merrill in the expansion draft last year and he has been used sparingly as an emergency defenseman in the past year and a half, yet Steve Carp of Sinbin.vegas writes that the play of the 26-year-old blueliner has improved dramitcally recently while the team has been without defenseman Colin Miller as he has averaged more than 17 minutes a game and he has a three-game point streak. Although Miller is expected back within the week, Carp writes that his play might get him more opportunities down the road with the team potentially resting players like Nick Holden and Deryk Engelland more often.
It’s a relatively busy Sunday for the NHL as six games are scheduled for today, including an afternoon tilt between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes. While the league prepares for another important week, we’ll be here keeping track of all the minor moves.
- The San Jose Sharks have sent Rourke Chartier back to the minor leagues, given the team doesn’t play again until Tuesday. The 22-year old forward has played 13 games with the Sharks this season but has just a single goal. He very well could be recalled once again in a few days.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled Kole Sherwood, a 21-year old forward that spent time in the ECHL earlier this year. The hometown kid has seven points in 22 games for the AHL Cleveland Monsters, but will get a shot to see what life is like in the NHL for at least a little while.
- Jordan Kyrou and Jordan Nolan have bother been recalled by the St. Louis Blues, giving the team two forward options in very different situations. Kyrou is still trying to get his footing in his first season as a professional, but has recently found his way as the AHL Rookie of the Month for December. Nolan meanwhile is just trying to hold onto his NHL career after finding himself in the minor leagues this season for the first time since 2012-13.
- In a minor transaction, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis Blues’ goalie prospect Evan Fitzpatrick has been re-assigned from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL to the Tulsa of the ECHL. The scribe adds the transaction is significant because it likely suggests that prospect Ville Husso might be ready to return from injury, which could provide the Blues with a solid emergency goaltender down the road. The 20-year-old Fitzpatrick has served as an emergency backup already, but has spent most of his season in Tusla.
- The Vancouver Canucks announced they have assigned center Adam Gaudette to the Utica Comets of the AHL as the team expects the return of Josh Leivo, who has been out with back spasms. The former Hobey Baker Award winner spent the early portion of the season with Vancouver, learning as a bottom-line player, but was sent to Utica to get more playing time in. He has been producing in Utica, posting three goal and seven points in seven games, including a two goal, three-point performance on Jan. 5th. He was then recalled after Elias Pettersson went down with his knee injury and scored a goal in his one appearance on Thursday against Arizona.
- The Arizona Coyotes announced they have recalled goaltender Calvin Pickard from the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL now that his conditioning stint is over. The team claimed Pickard off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers due to injuries to both Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper. However, with Kuemper healthy once again and the emergence of Adin Hill, the Coyotes would have to keep Pickard around as a third goaltender, which they may not want to do. Pickard struggled in four appearances in Tuscon, despite a 3-0 record, posting a 3.47 GAA and a .889 save percentage.
The Vancouver Canucks got some good news Saturday when star center Elias Pettersson, who has been out with a sprained knee for the past nine days, took to the ice. Unfortunately, he skated only with skills coach Glen Carnegie, however, it’s an important part in Pettersson’s recovery, according to Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre.
The 20-year old suffered a first-degree sprain when he was pulled to the ice by Montreal’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi on Jan. 3. However, Pettersson is getting closer to a return as he managed to twist and turn through drills during a 25-minute skate, much longer than his skate on Friday. However, head coach Travis Green said that while Pettersson wants to return to the lineup as soon as possible, he must still get through a full practice with the team, meaning he will not return for Sunday’s game against Florida.
“He wants to play,” Green said after Saturday’s practice. “We want him to play, but we’re not going to rush him back and have him play where he’s at risk because he’s not moving around well enough. We’re going to do right by him, but we want him back as fast as he can. He’s a competitive kid; he wants to play. He’s not happy not playing.”
- Fox Sports’ Jon Rosen writes that despite only having acquired him in November, the Los Angeles Kings are likely going to shop veteran Carl Hagelin at the trade deadline and move on from him. The 30-year-old has only appeared in eight games with the Kings since being acquired from Pittsburgh for Tanner Pearson due to injuries, but the team will likely want to get something for Hagelin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The main purpose of moving Pearson was to free themselves of his contract which still had another two years remaining at $3.75MM. If they can flip Hagelin for future assets, then the team should help themselves in multiple ways.
- Kevin Kurz of The Athletic writes that the San Jose Sharks have activated defenseman Justin Braun off of injured reserve for tonight’s game against Ottawa. Braun has been out since Jan. 2 with a knee injury, but should immediately provide the defensive depth the team needs on the Sharks’ third line. Braun has been averaging just under 20 minutes a game for the Sharks this season despite not providing much offense this season. He has one goal and nine points in 42 games.
As they prepare to square off tonight, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are also on the board with some minor moves already. The Atlantic Division battle between likely first round opponents highlights a busy twelve-game Saturday slate. The Metropolitan Division gets the action started, with marquee matinee match-ups between the Rangers and Islanders and the Devils and Flyers. Other notable games later on include the Avalanche and Canadiens, both fighting to stay in the playoff picture in their respective conferences, the Blue Jackets and Capitals, two of the teams jockeying for position at the top of the Metro, and the Senators and Sharks, as Erik Karlsson faces his former team in his new home. With lots of action across the league, including some high stakes contests, expect some maneuvering to be made on several rosters. Keep up with all of the transactions here:
- Urho Vaakanainen made his return to the AHL’s Providence Bruins lineup last night, indicating that he had been sent down, despite a formal announcement. Vaakanainen had been on the Boston Bruins’ injured reserve in December and was loaned directly from there to Team Finland for the World Junior Championship, a venture that ended in a gold medal. With the Bruins in enough of a roster crunch as is, it makes sense that the promising rookie would head back to the AHL, where he can continue to develop while also serving as the next man up on the Boston blue line.
- In what has become a daily occurrence over the last several weeks, the Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo on an emergency loan from the AHL Marlies, the team announced. There was hope that starter Frederik Andersen may be able to return from injury for tonight’s game, but he has added a bout with the flu to his list of ongoing issues and will remain sidelined. Michael Hutchinson will instead make his fifth straight start, with Kaskisuo again suiting up as the backup. The struggling minor league keeper has yet to see any game action in the NHL.
- The New Jersey Devils have returned goalie Cam Johnson to their AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Devils, in response to activating MacKenzie Blackwood from the injured reserve, who will get the start today for New Jersey. Johnson did not make an appearance in net for the team on his recall, which comes as little surprise given his struggles in the AHL this season. Johnson, who has also spent time in the ECHL, was a standout at the University of North Dakota, but is still adjusting to the pro game in his first season. The Devils also announced that injury-prone forward Marcus Johansson has been activated from the IR as well. If the Devils have any chance of getting back into the playoff picture, Johansson will need to be at the top of his game the rest of the way. Worst case scenario, they can flip the impending free agent before the trade deadline.
- With Ryan Murray out sick, the Columbus Blue Jackets needed an extra defenseman and have elected to recall Gabriel Carlsson. Carlsson, a first-round pick back in 2015, has only played in one game with Columbus this season and has struggled to carve out a role for himself with the NHL club. The big stay-at-home defender will use this latest recall to try to prove he’s worthy or more play time.
- The Arizona Coyotes have reassigned forward Michael Bunting to the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunner, per a team release. Following the acquisition of Jordan Weal and the return of Josh Archibald, the team had a surplus of forwards and Bunting is the man tabbed to head back to the minors. Bunting scored in his debut with the team and played in four games overall on the recall.
- After being sent to the San Jose Barracuda Friday, the San Jose Sharks have recalled forward Rourke Chartier from the AHL once again, according to CapFriendly. The 22-year-old has split his season evenly between the Barracuda and the Sharks. He’s played 12 games in the AHL with three goals and 10 points, while struggling a bit more with the Sharks as he has one goal in 13 appearances so far this season.
Just four games are on the schedule for this evening, but one will feature the return of a former franchise player. Jeff Skinner returns to Carolina for the first time as a Buffalo Sabres forward and has his team on track for the playoffs. The Sabres sit just two points behind the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division and could tie them with their game in hand tonight. Skinner’s 29 goals are a huge part of Buffalo’s success, and have him on pact for a new career high.
- Kasimir Kaskisuo has been returned to the minor leagues by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but won’t be there for long. Frederik Andersen is not expected to play until Monday according to Lance Hornby of Postmedia, meaning Michael Hutchinson will likely get another start in net tomorrow night.
- With MacKenzie Blackwood on injured reserve and potentially staying in the NHL long-term, the Binghamton Devils have signed Evan Cormier to an AHL contract for the rest of the season. Cormier had been playing on an amateur tryout previously, but has a .938 save percentage in four games.
- Speaking of the Devils, the New Jersey variety have sent Egor Yakovlev back down to Binghamton today. Yakovlev is expected to suit up for the minor league game tonight, his ninth game with Binghamton this season.
- The Ottawa Senators have placed Colin White on injured reserve, recalling Stefan Elliott in his place. White suffered an upper-body injury against the Los Angeles Kings last night when he was crushed by defenseman Jake Muzzin.
- Troy Grosenick is heading back to the AHL after filling in for Juuse Saros on the bench last night. The minor league goaltender was called up under emergency conditions when Saros was sick, but won’t get into an NHL game just yet.
- The San Jose Sharks have returned both forward Rourke Chartier and defenseman Jacob Middleton to the AHL Barracuda, the team announced. Considering the Sharks and Barracuda share a building, every recall and reassignment in San Jose is a paper transaction. The duo are expected to play for the Barracuda tonight, but could very well be called up tomorrow when the Sharks host the Ottawa Senators. With both Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun still sidelined, there’s a a good chance that at least Middleton’s return is only temporary.
- In search of more offense, the Buffalo Sabres recalled top AHL forward C.J. Smith last month. After recording, one point in four games, he’s headed back down. The team announced that Smith has been reassigned to the Rochester Americans. No corresponding move has been made as of yet.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have shuffled their lineup, sending emergency backup J-F Berube and winger Eric Robinson back to the AHL and promoting center Kevin Stenlund, per a team release. The 6’4″ pivot has yet to make his NHL debut, but has performed well in his second season in North America and has the makings of a strong bottom-six center. A second-round pick by Columbus back in 2015, Stenlund’s arrival to the Blue Jackets roster has been long-awaited.
After making a big splash at the trade deadline last season with the acquisition of winger Evander Kane, Sharks GM Doug Wilson indicated to Paul Gackle of the Mercury News that they’re once again open to going after an impact rental player. Before Kane’s addition last season, San Jose was typically content with adding role players and shoring up their depth around the deadline but they’re open to a more aggressive approach this time around.
It’s certainly understandable that Wilson is open to trying another big swing. The Sharks are built to win now and have several prominent unrestricted free agents on the roster already in defenseman Erik Karlsson plus centers Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. With Karlsson unlikely to sign a contract extension until after the trade deadline (when he becomes eligible for an eighth year), an impact addition plus a strong playoff run could certainly bolster their chances of keeping him in the fold beyond this season.
However, there are a couple of potential complicating factors here. For starters, San Jose projects to only be able to add a player making just shy of $4MM on deadline day, per CapFriendly. Most impact rentals have a higher price tag than that. Accordingly, the Sharks would either need to send someone off the roster to help offset salary or have the other team retain part of the contract, resulting in a higher asking price.
That leads to the other challenge that Wilson will face. As a result of the Kane acquisition (and subsequent extension), San Jose doesn’t have their first-round pick this season. They also have to give up the higher of their 2019 second-round picks to Ottawa as part of the Karlsson trade, a move that also cost them their 2020 first rounder. On top of that, their top two 2021 top picks are presently encumbered from the Karlsson trade as it’s a conditional selection contingent on him re-signing and how far the Sharks go in the playoffs this year. (There’s also the conditional first-rounder they’d owe if they deal Karlsson to another Eastern Conference team although that’s extremely unlikely to occur.) That certainly limits their trade chips.
With their pursuit of John Tavares last summer and their eventual acquisition of Karlsson, San Jose served notice that their window to win is now so adding another impact rental player makes plenty of sense. However, given their shortage of top picks and somewhat limited salary cap space, their options may wind up being more limited than they’d like.
The San Jose Sharks are hot right now. The team has won three straight and 12 of 17 dating back to December 1st. They are within striking distance of the Pacific Division and Western Conference lead, just three points back of the Calgary Flames. After a slow start, both Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are playing Norris-caliber hockey and the offense is among the best in the league. Everything appears to be going well.
Yet, one can’t help but notice that the Sharks continue to get poor results from their goaltending. As they countdown to the Trade Deadline next month, TSN notes that San Jose could certainly be in the market for another goalie. San Jose is dead last in even strength save percentage and starter Martin Jones is among the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL statistically this season. Jones has an .899 save percentage and 2.82 goals against average in 32 games so far, while backup Aaron Dell has struggled even more, holding an .890 save percentage and 3.10 goals against average. Both keepers are fortunate to be playing in San Jose, where the Sharks allow a league-low 28.1 shots per game, but against superior competition – such as in the postseason – Jones and Dell will be exposed if they don’t improve.
The current trade market, unquestionably a buyer’s market, is likely to feature many legitimate goalies for the Sharks. Even if the team doesn’t want to meet the price for a keeper like Detroit’s Jimmy Howard or Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, the options are aplenty. Cam Talbot (EDM), Craig Anderson (OTT), Keith Kinkaid (NJD), Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney (CAR), and Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth (PHI) should be available for the Sharks to scoop up. While Jones and even Dell may have been better than the majority of this group in recent years, the season is more than halfway over and the Sharks keepers’ numbers speak for themselves. San Jose won’t be the only buyer in the goalie market, but they are seemingly guaranteed to land another keeper if they want one and the cost shouldn’t be too high. The team will have close to $4MM in cap space available at the trade deadline and would just have to find a way to carry three goaltenders for the rest of the season while staying cap compliant.
The more interesting question is whether the Sharks will also look into a more long-term solution, either ahead of the deadline or in the coming off-season. Jones and Dell, both 29 years old, each played well last season and were superb in 2016-17. However, if the team is losing faith in the duo, they may try to move Jones – in the first season of a six-year, $34.5MM deal – and replace him via trade or with a top free agent, such as Sergei Bobrovsky or even Los Angeles Kings rival Jonathan Quick. The team may also opt to simply upgrade his backup, moving on from Dell, who is signed through next season, in favor of a superior veteran option. So long as the Sharks play to their current level, that of a real Stanley Cup contender, GM Doug Wilson and company will have to do everything they can to give the team a shot at its first title.