Mike Halford

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Milan Michalek #18 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal against the Boston Bruins during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Leafs waive Michalek, claim Smith from Avs

The Maple Leafs continued their early roster tweaking on Monday, with a pair of moves — veteran winger Milan Michalek was placed on waivers, and the club claimed forward Ben Smith from Colorado.

First up, Michalek.

The 31-year-old — acquired, along with other spare parts, in the Dion Phaneuf-to-Ottawa trade — had appeared in all five games for the Leafs this season, scoring two points while averaging 14:16 TOI per night.

So needless to say, he was a fairly regular contributor.

Today’s transaction is clearly a move to give younger players a bigger opportunity on the team. Michalek was a veteran presence on a club filled with kids, but that apparently wasn’t enough to justify his roster spot any longer.

Per head coach Mike Babcock, Michalek will report to the AHL Marlies if unclaimed. He’s in the last of a three-year, $12 million deal that carries a $4M average annual cap hit.

As for Smith, he joins the Leafs after signing a one-year contract with Colorado in mid-August, then appearing in four regular season contests. He averaged just under 11 minutes per game for the Avs, without doing much of anything — no goals, no assists, one shot on goal and two attempted.

Babcock said Smith will draw into the lineup tomorrow against the Lightning, and will bolster Toronto’s penalty kill and faceoff prowess.

Another of Toronto’s early-season waiver claims, former B’s forward Seth Griffith, is still waiting to make his team debut.

Struggling Coyotes waive veteran d-man McBain

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 26:  Jamie McBain #21 of the Arizona Coyotes in action during the preseason NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena on September 26, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Off to a disappointing 1-4-0 start in which they’ve allowed 21 goals, the Coyotes made a roster move on Monday, placing blueliner Jamie McBain on waivers.

McBain, 28, signed with the Coyotes on the second day of free agency, after scoring nine points in 44 games for the Kings last season. The former Hurricane and Sabre also played in four postseason games for the Kings, averaging just under 11 minutes per night.

McBain was a prominent fixture on the Arizona defense to start the year, dressing for the club’s lone win — over Philadelphia in the opener — and subsequent losses to Ottawa and Montreal.

He actually played a season-high 18:49 against the Habs.

With McBain out, head coach Dave Tippett has gone with a six-man defensive unit of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn, Michael Stone and Jakob Chychrun.

Stone returned from a knee injury two games ago, which pushed both McBain and Kevin Connauton to the sidelines.

With nearly 350 games on his resume and a reasonably cheap pricetag ($650,000 cap hit), McBain could be a candidate to get plucked off waivers, tho it seems highly unlikely.

Teams have been loathe to add blueline help via waivers thus far, with the likes of Mark Barbeiro and Cody Goloubef passing through unclaimed.

Goalie injury wave hits Boston, Subban recalled on emergency basis

Malcolm Subban
AP Photo
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The injury bug that’s sweeping NHL creases has hit Boston.

Ahead of Tuesday’s home tilt against the Wild, the Bruins — without the services of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin — goalie recalled Malcolm Subban from AHL Providence.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to Khudobin, who played in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Montreal. Rask, who hasn’t suited up since Thursday’s win over New Jersey, was absent from practice with no clear word on what his ailment is.

All this points to Subban, 22, potentially making his second career start tomorrow night against Minnesota. The former first-round pick’s had a nightmare start to the year in Providence, going 0-3-1 with a 4.50 GAA and .846 save percentage.

“I don’t know if he’s where he wants to be or where we want him to be,” head coach Kevin Dean said, per the Journal.

As mentioned above, Boston isn’t the only team dealing with goalie injuries at the moment. The L.A. Kings are without Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff, forcing No. 3 netminder Peter Budaj into the starting role.

The Coyotes have listed injured starter Mike Smith as week-to-week with a lower-body ailment, the Penguins are still without Matt Murray (hand) and Nashville had to play without Pekka Rinne on Saturday night, as he dealt with a bout of food poisioning.

Isles bring back Steve Bernier on two-way deal

NEWARK, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Steve Bernier #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on September 25, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Islanders 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After attending training camp on a PTO, Steve Bernier has signed with the Isles.

On Monday, the club announced Bernier had agreed to a one-year, two-way deal, which gives him a second go-round with the club. Last year the veteran forward caught on with the club and proceeded to score six points in 24 regular-season games, and appear in six playoff contests.

A former first-round pick, Bernier’s deal comes with the Isles dealing with a few injuries up front — Shane Prince is currently week-to-week with a lower-body injury, and Mikhail Grabovski is out indefinitely with post-concussion symptoms.

The Bernier deal could also give the Isles flexibility with their two 19-year-old rookies, Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, as both are eligible to be returned to junior (and the Isles would prevent “burning” a year on their entry-level deals if they do it before the nine-game threshold.)

That said, Beauvillier is off to a terrific start, with five points through five games. Barzal has been less effective, dressing just once.

 

 

Devils send ‘impact’ rookie Speers back to junior

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 27:  Blake Speers reacts after being selected 67th by the New Jersey Devils during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Blake Speers, one of two 19-year-olds to make the Devils out of training camp earlier this month, has been returned to his junior team in OHL Sault Ste. Marie, the club announced on Monday.

Speers was the club’s third round pick, 67th overall, at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and wasn’t expected to make his impact at the NHL level for a while. But a solid training camp and exhibition campaign impressed both Devils head coach John Hynes and GM Ray Shero, who proceeded to give Speers a three-game look before shipping him back to junior.

“When you see him, he’s an impact player every day,” Hynes said, per the Sault Star. “His hockey smarts and instincts are excellent.

“He has speed, he has compete and he has strong puck skills.”

Speers’s three games came against the Panthers, Lightning and Wild, which included a season-high 12:50 TOI against the Bolts. By returning him to Sault Ste. Marie now rather than beyond his ninth game of the year, the Devils avoid “burning” the first year of Speers’ entry-level contract.

With Speers gone, the Devils have recalled Steve Santini from AHL Albany. Santini could make his season debut Tuesday night when Coyotes visit Prudential.