Roundtable: Jack Eichel situation; bold predictions for 2021-22 season

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Which playoff team will not be back in the postseason in 2022?

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Make no mistake about it: Juuse Saros dragged the Predators kicking and screaming to the playoffs. That already-fading team lost Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson for precious little in return, yet didn’t have the courage to go full-fledged with a rebuild. (A four-year, $20 million contract for 29-year-old Mikael Granlund? On this team? OK then.) Honestly, repeating last season feels like their ceiling, and that would be close to a worst-case scenario. You’d have to be naive (or on the payroll?) to believe in the John Hynes – David Poile combination right now.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Montreal and Nashville are the easy picks here. The Canadiens will not have the luxury of playing in the North Division where four teams were guaranteed to go, and will instead be back with at least four legitimate contenders (Tampa Bay, Boston, Florida, Toronto) ahead of them. There are a lot of reasons to like the Canadiens and some of their young talent, but they are still a step behind those other teams and I am not sure Carey Price can play a full 82-game season at the level he played at in the playoffs a year ago to lead them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Nashville, meanwhile, just has a lot of problems that were masked by Juuse Saros. They looked like a team that was ready to get torn apart halfway through the 2020-21 season until Saros went into superman mode in goal and carried them to a playoff spot. Now they do not have Ryan Ellis or Viktor Arvidsson on the roster and this just looks like a team that is trending toward a full scale rebuild. Competitive rebuilds never work. Eventually teams have to completely rebuild. Nashville is going that direction.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: It’s fun to think about the alternate ending of the Predators’ season if Juuse Saros doesn’t post a .939 even strength save percentage over the final 24 games of their season and offense doesn’t post top-10 numbers. Would David Poile still be general manager? How much longer would John Hynes have lasted? As we go back to a normal divisional alignment, save for the Coyotes moving to the Central, Nashville will have a very tough time in possibly the NHL’s toughest division. 

Every Central team is improved in some way, whereas the Predators added Cody Glass, Phil Myers, and David Rittich, while losing pieces like Ryan Ellis, Pekka Rinne, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula. The team needs an overhaul, but Poile won’t get much assistance from his friends around the league with some anchor-like contracts on his books. Maybe a down year will begin a needed re-tooling.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Montreal. The division re-alignment really favored the Habs last season, and they got into the playoffs despite winning fewer than half of their games. It would be unfair to call their Cup run a fluke, but their roster just does not make them competitive enough this season to get back to the playoffs.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The Canadiens have been fortunate the last two seasons to make the playoffs. They were 12 th overall in 2019-20 and snuck into the playoffs, while upsetting Pittsburgh, when the NHL decided to expand the playoff structure when COVID-19 forced the premature end of the regular season. They also snuck into the playoffs last season when the NHL realigned the divisions to allow all the Canadian teams to play each other and not have to cross the border. This season they are in the tough Atlantic and there are four better teams by far in Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston. I also think that Ottawa will be better this season.

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How does the Jack Eichel situation end?

James O’Brien, NHL writer: In tears? Poorly? The NHL and NHLPA have already reportedly gotten involved; at this point, I wouldn’t be shocked if lawyers did, too. As this drags on, a potential Eichel trade partner is more about what he could bring in the future, rather than next season. When you consider that, and that a no-movement clause begins in 2022-23, I continue to believe that Eichel will one day be a Bruin. Even by Sabres standards, I must admit I thought this would’ve been resolved by now, so don’t be surprised if this zaps his value (one way or another) for this season. What a bummer.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: It will end poorly for everybody. By the time Jack Eichel gets traded and gets to have the medical procedure he wants he will miss time this season, probably miss the Olympics, and the Sabres will have almost certainly traded their franchise player and core building block from this most recent failed rebuild for pennies on the dollar. Then next season a healthy Eichel comes back for his new team, plays like the superstar that he is, and takes that team to the playoffs while the Sabres’ streak of non-playoff seasons goes to an 11th season.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: I don’t know. It’s hard to believe how things have unfolded to this point, and we appear to be in stalemate as far as next steps for Eichel’s career. Assuming neither Eichel nor the Sabres change their opinion on what the proper path forward is medically, then it’s up to Kevyn Adams and the other 31 GMs to strike a deal. The best reason I could give for saying this will be resolved at some point this season is that Eichel’s no-move clause kicks in next offseason, so Adams will want to pull the trigger before he loses a significant amount of leverage.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Anaheim has been sneaky quiet this off-season and have the pieces to make an Eichel trade work. Eichel will eventually get the surgery he wants because the Sabres will want to be done with the issue — and not have to cut checks for someone not playing for them.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Eichel will have his surgery and then get dealt to the West Coast, either Los Angeles or Anaheim. The Sabres will not trade him to an Eastern based team and face him on numerous occasions, as they would rather see him twice a year. They will get three good prospects for him and perhaps a draft choice or two, but the Sabres need for Eichel to have the surgery and be ready to play before any team should consider trading for him.

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Give us one bold prediction for the NHL season

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Tomas Hertl, not Jack Eichel, is a Ranger at some point this season. The Sharks are going in a different direction and the soon-to-be 28-year-old will want to have a chance to win elsewhere.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Patrik Laine has a huge rebound year — from a sniping standpoint. On a Blue Jackets largely bereft of scoring talent, Jakub Voracek sets up Laine for a ton of goals. Sure, the underlying numbers tell the same story of a flawed all-around player, but the world is a slightly better place with Laine bombing away, and he’ll shockingly reach 40 goals. (Just ignore the mere 15 assists and uhh all the goals other teams score while he’s on the ice.)

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The Kings make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Pacific Division with Cal Petersen leading the way as their primary goalie. The center depth, the addition of Arvidsson, and a couple of other young players from their farm system will get them into a top-three spot in that weak division.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The league has so much success with its upcoming All-Star Weekend that Las Vegas becomes the permanent home for the event.

Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Pittsburgh will not make the playoffs this season despite having Sidney Crosby. Usually, Crosby is good enough to carry the Penguins, but he will miss the start of the season, along with Evgeni Malkin and the team is aging.

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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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    DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.