"If you forgot how big he is, he's 230 pounds of pure muscle, speed and competitiveness."
- Nashville coach Barry Trotz on Alex Ovechkin.
"If you forgot how big he is, he's 230 pounds of pure muscle, speed and competitiveness."
- Nashville coach Barry Trotz on Alex Ovechkin.
Craig Cunningham’s recovery is progressing but “there's a lot more progression and healing to be done,” according to friend and former teammate Milan Lucic, who visited Cunningham recently.
Tucson captain Craig Cunningham has remained in the thoughts of the hockey community since the moment he collapsed on the ice ahead of an AHL contest between the Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19, but information regarding the health of the 26-year-old has been sparse.
The Arizona Coyotes, the parent club of the Roadrunners, have updated Cunningham’s status from time to time, often saying only that there has been little or no change, which is to say that Cunningham remains in critical but stable condition.
However, a promising update has come along regarding Cunningham from his friend and former teammate, Milan Lucic. The Oilers winger, who played with Cunningham with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and again as a member of the Boston Bruins, said he couldn’t get into too much detail, but offered some positive news.
"The good news is he's progressed a lot from the state he was in last weekend," Lucic said, according to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown. "He's heading in the right direction, but obviously there's a lot more progression and healing to be done.”
Even with the good news, though, Brown reported that Cunningham “has not regained consciousness since collapsing.”
No cause for the collapse has been given by either the Coyotes or Roadrunners, but Tucson GM Doug Soetaert told the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 21 that Cunningham was “critically ill.”
Cunningham was a fourth-round pick, 97th overall, of the Bruins in 2010, and has played 63 NHL games over the past several seasons. He was acquired by the Coyotes via waivers in 2014-15, finishing the season by playing 19 games with the Coyotes and recording one goal and four points. He skated in 10 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16, picking up an assist.
Cunningham was named the captain of the Springfield Falcons, then the Coyotes affiliate, in 2015-16 and had arguably the best AHL season of his career, posting 22 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He held on to the captaincy with the newly minted Roadrunners this season and had four goals and 13 points in 11 games.
The Roadrunners postponed two additional games following Cunningham’s hospitalization, but returned to action this past Saturday.
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The Canadiens will be without Alex Galchenyuk for Wednesday’s tilt with the Blues, but no update on a timeline for his return is expected until the team returns to Montreal later this week.
Despite what has been a mediocre stretch of play over their past 10 games, the Montreal Canadiens haven’t had much, or really anything, to complain about. Only five teams have scored more goals, only five have allowed fewer and the Canadiens’ 17-6-2 record has them sitting atop the NHL’s standings.
It’s not all sunshine in Montreal anymore, though.
In Sunday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings, the Canadiens lost leading scorer, Alex Galchenyuk, to a lower-body injury which appeared to come when he collided with Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
The knock came as Galchenyuk was skating through the middle of the ice and bumped legs with Kopitar, who himself was cutting into the slot area. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but Galchenyuk skated to the bench flexing his right leg and the ailment was enough to put Galchenyuk out of the remainder of the contest.
There was no immediate update on Galchenyuk, 22, following the game, but word came down from the Canadiens Monday afternoon that the center will be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, and the team said further updates would be coming later in the week once he can be evaluated by team doctors in Montreal.
With the way Galchenyuk has been playing, it’s a brutal loss for the Canadiens.
Through 25 games, Galchenyuk was on pace to have hands down the best season of his career. Already with nine goals and 23 points, he was on pace to set match his career high of 30 goals and blow his previous-best point total out of the water with 76 points this campaign. Galchenyuk had also formed a fairly formidable tandem alongside off-season acquisition Alex Radulov, and the duo had combined on the score sheet for 12 goals this season.
But it isn’t just that Galchenyuk was having an impact on the score sheet that will make his loss hurt.
For much of the first few seasons of his career, fans in Montreal clamoured for the talented youngster to be used down the middle. He had spent much of his first few years on the wing despite being drafted as a center. During the 2015-16 campaign, coach Michel Therrien started to test Galchenyuk as a pivot, and he had more than proven that he was capable of carrying the load as a second-line center this year.
In that sense, Galchenyuk gave the Canadiens a solid one-two punch down the middle for the first time in a few seasons.
The current concern is that Galchenyuk has suffered another injury to the same knee he hurt before turning pro. He missed all but two games after undergoing knee surgery on his right knee ahead of the 2011-12 OHL season.
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A pair of captains find themselves in the rumor mill early in the campaign. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog are both potential trade chips in the hunt for improvements on the back end.
Last June, the Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world by shipping defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Shea Weber. For months leading up to that move, Subban was the subject of frequent trade speculation.
Nearly six months after the Subban deal, another notable member of the Canadiens' core surfaced in the rumor mill. The Score's Sean O'Leary includes Habs captain Max Pacioretty among his site's list of six NHL players who should get ready to pack their bags this season.
O'Leary believes the Canadiens must stabilize their blueline beyond Weber. In his opinion, the emergence of Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk makes the 28-year-old Pacioretty “expendable.” After three straight 30-plus goal seasons, the Habs captain has bounced around the lineup. Prior to his two-goal performance in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings, he was on pace for only 17 goals.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos doesn't believe the Canadiens intend to trade Pacioretty, but points out some teams think his situation bears scrutiny. He notes there's some friction between the winger and coach Michel Therrien over his usage this season.
Kypreos echoes O'Leary's comments, claiming a lot of teams wonder if Pacioretty could become a trade chip to boost Montreal's blueline depth. His colleague Elliotte Friedman suggests it could be difficult for the Habs to get equal value.
It's no secret Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman. Despite Friedman's speculation about the type of return Bergevin could receive for Pacioretty, a scorer of his calibre will attract considerable interest in the trade market.
If Bergevin is willing to move Pacioretty, he should get a solid return. Given the winger's $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2018-19, it would likely have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal.
The Anaheim Ducks could be a trade partner. They're loaded with good young defensemen and could certainly use an experienced left winger such as Pacioretty on their scoring lines. Bergevin could cast an eye upon Cam Fowler ($4 million per season) or Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million).
Such a move, however, would leave Montreal thin on left wing and weaken their offense. While the Habs are among the top-10 in scoring, they've struggled of late in that category. Shipping out a proven 30-goal sniper in Pacioretty won't help them. Prior to the Subban trade, many observers (including yours truly) doubted he'd be dealt. Bergevin's shown a willingness to make big moves for the right return, so perhaps a Pacioretty trade isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
AVALANCHE CAPTAIN LANDESKOG MOVED FOR BLUELINE HELP?
The Canadiens aren't the only club that could trade their captain for blueline help. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports of “rumblings” the Colorado Avalanche could move left wing Gabriel Landeskog for a big-minute defenseman.
Like the Habs, the Avs must improve their depth on defense. They enter this week averaging 31.8 shots-again per game, ranking among the league's worst.
This isn't the first time Landeskog, 24, has popped up in the rumor mill. There was some talk last summer linking him to the Ducks and then-unsigned blueliner Hampus Lindholm, though that speculation didn't go very far.
Matheson wonders if the Avs might offer up Landeskog to the New York Islanders for rearguard Travis Hamonic. The Isles reportedly seek a scoring winger for John Tavares' line. In recent weeks, there was also talk of Landeskog's teammate Matt Duchene being peddled to the Isles.
Despite the rumors and the Avs' ongoing struggles, GM Joe Sakic maintains his belief in core players such as Landeskog and Duchene. Following last week's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Sakic told Terry Frei of the Denver Post he still has faith in his core, claiming the club's poor start is a team issue.
Sakic doesn't sound like a GM keen to shake up his roster. That doesn't mean, however, he won't that option. Former coach Patrick Roy can no longer be labelled the bad guy for their poor play. Sooner or later, the core players could pay the price.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
If the Coyotes don't start improving, they could start selling assets like Martin Hanzal, or even youngster Anthony Duclair.
Entering December, the Arizona Coyotes remain mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Their lack of improvement continues to stoke speculation that they could make a move or two.
Much of the talk earlier this season focused upon center Martin Hanzal. The 6-foot-6, 226-pounder is slated for unrestricted free agency next summer, sparking talk the Coyotes could move him if he's unsigned by the March 1 trade deadline.
In recent weeks, however, sophomore right winger Anthony Duclair rose to the fore in Coyotes trade chatter. Nearly two weeks ago, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported the 21 year old could be available, though he expected the Coyotes would seek “a pretty penny” in return.
Duclair enjoyed a 20-goal, 44-point performance as a rookie in 2015-16. This season, however, he's struggled to score, tallying only four points in 21 games.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Coyotes aren't shopping Duclair, but are listening to offers. Dreger believes they could move him if they get a significant return, such as a good young center. He also said Duclair's name popped up briefly back in June.
Despite Duclair's struggles this season, it seems unlikely the Coyotes want to move him. Still, it's worthwhile to at least listen to what's being offered by other clubs. Whether one of them is willing to meet the Coyotes' price remains to be seen.
SPOONER'S PLAY MAKES NEW DEAL UNLIKELY
The ongoing struggles of Boston Bruins left winger Ryan Spooner continues to make him a subject of interest in the rumor mill. Earlier this week, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggested the 24-year-old's poor performance this season could hurt his chances of re-signing with the Bruins next summer.
After netting 49 points in 2015-16, Spooner has eight points in 22 games this season. That puts him on pace for only 29 points.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty observes Spooner was relegated to fourth-line duty in several recent games. He speculates the young forward's difficulties this season could be tied to playing on the wing, rather than his preferred position at center.
Spooner won't unseat Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as the Bruins' top-two centers. It's worth noting he played largely on the wing last season, too.
Should Spooner fail to improve, Haggerty wonders if he might become part of a package deal to bring the Bruins a mobile defenseman A rival club could take that gamble on Spooner, but the Bruins could be forced to bundle him with a high draft pick and perhaps a top prospect to land a skilled puck-moving blueliner.
MAPLE LEAFS EXPECTED TO MOVE HOLLAND
Recent Toronto Maple Leafs speculation centers upon which of their young wingers they might trade for a top-pairing defenseman. Meanwhile, they're expected to part ways with center Peter Holland.
The Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby reports Holland's agent, Joe Resnick, said Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello intends to trade his client. Lamoriello also decided the 25 year old wouldn't accompany the club on its current road trip.
TSN's Darren Dreger said there's limited interest in Holland. He also believes the center could be placed on waivers.
Holland spent the past two seasons on the Leafs' checking lines, tallying 25 points in 2014-15 and 27 points last season. At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he's a big, versatile forward who can skate at center or on the wing. With the Leafs bringing in younger talent this season, Holland's been a healthy scratch for all but eight games.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests the Arizona Coyotes as a possible destination for Holland. With center Brad Richardson sidelined indefinitely with a broken leg, they're in need of size and experience down the middle.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.