Gretzky-Kurri, Trottier-Bossy and Lemieux-Jagr are a few of the greatest tandems in NHL history. McDavid-Draisaitl and Crosby-Malkin, meanwhile, are two of the present day's top duos.

While the Buffalo Sabres' newly formed duo of Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall likely will not reach those lofty heights, they should provide some excitement and plenty of offense next season for a playoff-starved fan base.

No team currently have a longer streak without a playoff appearance than the Sabres, who haven't played beyond the regular season since 2010-2011. That nine-season drought is just one shy of the all-time mark (Panthers, 2000-01 to 2010-11; Oilers, 2006-07 to 2015-16).

There is a myriad of reasons for this futility and perhaps chief among them is a revolving door of coaches and general managers. Incumbent Ralph Krueger is Buffalo's sixth coach since the 2012-13 season and Buffalo have also had three general managers during that span, with Kevyn Adams taking over in June 2020.

There's no denying that the on-ice product also has been lacking, especially when it comes to putting the puck in the net. Inability to generate offense in the NHL of the past few seasons is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

Lowest team goals per game – since 2011-12

Sabres - 2.38 (a league-low 24.2 shots on goal per game)

Coyotes - 2.47

Devils - 2.47

Kings - 2.56

Red Wings - 2.59

After missing out on the opportunity to draft Connor McDavid in 2015, the Sabres selected Eichel at No. 2. While he hasn't approached the numbers that McDavid has registered with the Oilers, Eichel is a star in his own right and the best player Buffalo has seen since Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were the team's top forwards over a decade ago.

Most games leading team in points (including ties) – since 2015-16

Connor McDavid (Oilers) - 180

Patrick Kane (Blackhawks) - 174

Nikita Kucherov (Lightning) - 161

Jack Eichel (Sabres) - 151

Still, Eichel has been in desperate need of assistance for years and that's where Hall comes in. The best forward available in this year's free-agent market, Hall was the 2018 NHL MVP and has topped 20 goals six times since entering the league as the No. 1 pick in 2010.

Largest gap in points between team leader and second place – 2019-20

Avalanche - 43 (Nathan MacKinnon - 93; Cale Makar - 50)

Sabres - 28 (Jack Eichel - 78; Sam Reinhart - 50)

Blackhawks - 24 (Patrick Kane - 84; Jonathan Toews - 60)

Rangers - 20 (Artemi Panarin - 95; Mika Zibanejad - 75)

Hall aiming to prove a point

It came as a shock that Hall decided to sign with the Sabres on a one-year, $8million contract instead of a long-term deal with a perennial contender. While playing with Eichel was certainly attractive, Hall also played under Krueger with the Oilers in 2012-13 and he'll have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers and potentially land a big contract next offseason, either with Buffalo or another team.

Hall has something to prove after he split last season between New Jersey and Arizona and reached the playoffs for just the second time in his career this past season with the Coyotes.

After totalling career bests with 39 goals, 54 assists and 93 points with the Devils in 2017-18, Hall suffered through an injury-plagued 2018-19. He registered 10 goals and 27 points in 35 games after joining the Coyotes in mid-December but never seemed to find his niche.

When Hall had his MVP season in 2017-18, the best forwards on that Devils team were rookie Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri. Hischier was a No. 1 overall draft pick and Palmieri is a consistent 20-goal scorer but neither had the level of skill then that Eichel has now. New Jersey finished 15th in the NHL with 2.96 goals per game that season, even with the league MVP on their roster.

Hall's playmaking ability should be a boon for Eichel, who scored a career-high 36 goals last season despite playing only 68 games. Eichel averaged 0.53 goals per game in 2019-20, the same number as McDavid and ahead of Steven Stamkos, Nathan MacKinnon and Patrick Kane.

The addition of Hall should give the Sabres two solid lines and will ease the burden on Victor Olofsson, who scored 20 goals in 54 games as a rookie last season.

A best-case scenario for Buffalo is that Hall's presence lights a fire under Jeff Skinner, who was among the league's biggest disappointments last season with 14 goals and 23 points after he signed an eight-year, $72million contract following a 40-goal campaign in 2018-19.

Skinner's minus-26 goal differential last season was the league's second-largest decline of all players who played at least 30 games. Only Cam Atkinson (-29) was worse. Skinner's haul of 14 goals was his lowest total since he had 13 for Carolina in 2012-13.

The Sabres by all accounts should be better next season - whenever that is - and with the NFL's Buffalo Bills currently sitting atop their division after recently ending a lengthy playoff drought, it could be time for the Sabres to finally rise as well.

The NHL has postponed next year's Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 Winter Classic featuring the Minnesota Wild and St Louis Blues was scheduled for January 1, while the Florida Panthers were due to host the All-Star Weekend from January 29-30.

But the NHL announced the postponements on Thursday amid the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

The NHL, though, is still planning to begin the 2020-21 season on or around New Year's Day.

"Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events," said NHL senior executive vice-president and chief content officer Steve Mayer.

"Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.

"We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season."

The 2019-20 NHL season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis before a shortened campaign resumed behind closed doors in "hub cities" – Toronto and Edmonton – in August.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup champions as the season ended on September 28.

The Vegas Golden Knights have signed prized free agent and Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo on a seven-year, $61.6million deal. 

Former St Louis Blues captain Pietrangelo was at the top of the free-agent list and the Golden Knights confirmed his lucrative arrival on Monday.

Pietrangelo, who served as Blues skipper since 2016 and helped the franchise to their first Stanley Cup in 2019, will earn an annual salary of $8.8m.

An elite defenseman and two-time All-Star, Pietrangelo posted 52 points in 70 games during the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season, while he has recorded 450 points in 758 career games – all with the Blues.

"With Alex, we get a guy that's in the discussion for the Norris Trophy each year," Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said.

"He's one of the top four or five defensemen in the game. He's the first over the boards in every situation for his team. ... He's a four-year captain [with St Louis]. He's extremely high-character, very committed to winning, Stanley Cup champion.

"Right shot. He's 6-foot-3, brings great size [210 pounds] to our blue line. And again, we wouldn't have gone to these lengths for anyone but a player that we think can do as much for our team as Alex can."

The Golden Knights traded defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to help clear cap space ahead of Pietrangelo's arrival.

Pietrangelo was selected in the first round of the 2008 draft and has amassed 109 goals and 341 assists during that period with the Blues.

The 30-year-old has also scored 51 points – eight goals and 43 assists – in 92 playoff games throughout his career, posting 19 points en route to the Blues' Stanley Cup success last year.

Vegas, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2017-18, reached the 2019-20 Western Conference finals but lost to the Dallas Stars.

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004 after a Game 6 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Brayden Point and Blake Coleman scored as Tampa Bay recorded a 2-0 victory at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win their second Stanley Cup thanks to a 4-2 series success.

After scoring 10 goals and providing 12 assists in 25 games, Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.

"It's the best moment of our hockey lives," the defenseman said, via NHL.com.

"So many emotions. It's going to take months for it to sink in, but we're going to be champions forever, we're going to be on that Cup forever.

"It's what you imagine all your life."

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in Game 6 to earn the shutout.

Washington Capitals star Braden Holtby is expected to enter free agency, according to general manager Brian MacLellan.

Holtby is coming off the final season of his five-year, $30.5million contract in Washington, where the goaltender helped the Capitals win the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup.

A five-time All-Star and 2016 Vezina Trophy winner, Holtby made 56 appearances in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20 as the Capitals bowed out in the first round of the postseason.

"I would expect him to go to free agency," MacLellan said on Tuesday. "The goalie market is probably a little unusually deep this year.

"I talked to his agent last week briefly about where he's at and the kind of opportunities he's looking for.

"I would assume he goes to free agency, and we'll keep in contact with him throughout the free-agency period to see if he's getting what he wants.''

Holtby has called Washington home since he was drafted by the Capitals in 2008

The 31-year-old has a 282-122-46 record with the Washington franchise.

Barack Obama, Billie Jean King and LeBron James led rallying calls on a seismic day in American sport, as games were called off in protest at racial injustice.

In a forceful message, athletes and teams downed tools in North America as they boycotted scheduled fixtures following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by police in the state of Wisconsin.

Blake was shot several times in the back, prompting nationwide protests.

All three NBA playoff games set for Wednesday were postponed, and it was reported widely that players from the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers were in favour of boycotting the rest of the season.

The NBA board of governors were set for a Thursday meeting, with players also reportedly due to hold a follow-up to their Wednesday get-together.

Major League Baseball saw three games postponed, namely those between the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.

Five of six Major League Soccer games also did not go ahead, while Thursday's play at the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament in New York was suspended, with Naomi Osaka pulling out of the tournament after reaching the semi-finals.

Former US president Obama saluted the Milwaukee Bucks for boycotting Game 5 in their series against the Orlando Magic.

Milwaukee is the nearest major city to Kenosha, where Blake was shot. Obama also saluted Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who criticised President Donald Trump when he spoke powerfully on Tuesday. Rivers accused the Republican Party of "spewing this fear".

Obama wrote on Twitter: "I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It's going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values."

Speaking earlier in the day, Lakers superstar James wrote on Twitter: "F*** THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT".

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer added: "I am again angry over the shooting of a black man #JacobBlake. @DocRivers and The @Bucks players said it well, we need real police accountability. Give citizens data to do so. Let's have criminal justice reform that keeps all people safe but not senselessly imprisoned or afraid."

Tennis great King, who has fought for the growth of women's sport and for social justice, praised Japanese player Osaka's decision to abandon the Western and Southern Open in her individual protest.

King wrote: "A brave and impactful move by @naomiosaka, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world. She was to play in the semis. Athletes using platforms for good means so much. Don't remain silent. #BlackLivesMatter"

Fellow tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova added: "An amazing stance Naomi ... well done, nothing but respect!!!"

The NHL faced criticism, however, for a perceived lack of response as the Stanley Cup playoffs continue.

Canadian star Evander Kane, who plays for the San Jose Sharks, tore into the league by saying: "Actually it's incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the @nhl, just straight up insulting."

St Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo shoulder surgery for the third time in less than three years, putting his availability for the start of next season in question, general manager Doug Armstrong revealed on Wednesday.

Armstrong said NHL Stanley Cup champion and three-time All-Star Tarasenko will have another procedure on his troublesome left shoulder next week and will be re-evaluated after a five-month period. 

The NHL has tentatively scheduled the 2020-21 season to begin on December 1, though that start date could be pushed back by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Tarasenko was limited to only 10 regular-season games in 2019-20 after undergoing a second surgery in October. 

The 28-year-old did return when the NHL resumed play earlier this month, but did not record a point in four games and was sent back to St Louis from the Edmonton bubble following Game 2 of the Blues' first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks. 

"He was very limited [when he returned]," Armstrong said. "He rehabbed, he came back, we had to do another MRI. He wasn't feeling good. That [second] surgery didn't take the way that we had hoped, it wasn't successful. 

"It's certainly not a positive that we're going through right now. We just know he prepares and trains hard and needs to get back and play well for us. It's a concern in the sense that he's going to have three surgeries." 

Meanwhile, Tarasenko insisted his career is not over, saying: "To take some speculation away, no, I'm not done, my career is not done. Now I am more motivated than ever to finally get healthy and play."

Tarasenko's first shoulder operation occurred in April 2018. He returned to score 33 goals in 76 games during the 2018-19 regular season, then added 11 more goals in 26 postseason games to help the Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship. 

Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, Tarasenko was one of only two players to record 30 or more goals in each of the five previous seasons along with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin.  

Tarasenko's injury is one of several issues facing Armstrong this offseason. He reiterated his desire to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo – who is set to be an unrestricted free agent – but the Blues currently have little financial flexibility with the salary cap expected to remain flat in 2020-21. 

"I think the first phase is going to be find out if we can find common ground with Alex," he said. "If we can, then we go to work to move other pieces. If we can't find common ground with Alex, then there's really no need to do anything." 

The New York Rangers are set to pick top prospect Alexis Lafreniere in the 2020 NHL Draft and winning the second phase of the lottery.

The first phase of the lottery failed to reveal the team with the number one selection in June, but the Rangers secured the first pick on Monday.

New York franchise the Rangers were one of the eight teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup qualifiers – finishing 18th in the NHL standings.

Now, the Rangers – set to pick first for the second time after drafting Andre Veilleux in 1965 – are poised to bring in high-scoring forward Lafreniere when the draft takes place across October 9 and 10.

"Really good news; the Rangers are an unreal team with really good players," Lafreniere said. "Really nice city, so for sure, it's really good news and I'm really happy."

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton added: "Anytime you can pick first, especially this year, it's a special year, we all know that.

"It was tough up in the bubble [in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city]. Those three games, Carolina gave it to us pretty good, but surely excited to have this happen to us tonight."

The Los Angeles Kings have the second pick, with the Ottawa Senators third and Detroit Red Wings fourth.

The NHL announced there were no positive tests returned for coronavirus in its latest round of testing.

Hockey is planning to return on August 1 with the expanded 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 24 teams are now in the 'bubble' city hubs of Edmonton and Toronto, where players and staff will be tested on a daily basis.

And there was positive news from the league on Monday as the results of tests between July 18 and 25 were revealed.

There were no positive tests among the 4,256 administered to more than 800 players, the NHL said.

This came after the previous week's testing saw two cases of coronavirus.

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka abruptly resigned on Sunday, one week before the franchise are to open their first playoff series in eight years.

The Coyotes confirmed Chayka's decision in a brusque statement in which the team announced that assistant GM Steve Sullivan will fill the position on an interim basis.

"John Chayka has quit as the general manager and president of hockey operations of the Arizona Coyotes," the statement read. "The club is disappointed in his actions and his timing as the Coyotes prepare to enter the NHL's hub city of Edmonton, where the team will begin post-season play for the first time since 2012.

"Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL."

Chayka, the youngest GM in professional sports history when he was hired by the Coyotes at age 26 in May 2016, had signed a contract extension in November that was to run through 2024. Under his direction, Arizona improved from 70 points in 2017-18 to 86 last season, and the Coyotes went 33-29-8 during the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign to earn the number 11 seed in the expanded Western Conference playoffs.

Arizona last qualified for the postseason in 2011-12. The Coyotes will face number six seed Nashville in the Western Conference qualifying round in the Edmonton bubble, with the best-of-five series scheduled to begin on August 2.

As the team got better on the ice, however, Chayka's relationship with owner Alex Meruelo and upper management apparently was deteriorating. According to Sportsnet.ca, the source of the friction was over the Coyotes refusing to grant permission for him to speak with another organisation about a potential opportunity.

Chayka issued a statement about his departure to AZ Coyotes Insider, but did not offer specifics about his reason for leaving.

"I love our players, coaches and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility," he stated. "That's all I intend to say on this matter for now. A fuller, more detailed explanation may be necessary in the near future."

Chayka also gave his support to Sullivan, a former Coyotes player who has been in the team's front office since 2014.

"Also, I want to congratulate Steve Sullivan as he steps into a new role. We've worked side-by-side for years. He is a great person and a terrific hockey mind," he said.

The team name for the new Seattle NHL franchise has been revealed as the Seattle Kraken.

The chosen moniker was announced on Thursday following a long wait that has generated heated debate among fans.

The franchise says inspiration was taken from sea-faring folklore and "the vast expanse, the impermeable deep" of the ocean on Seattle's doorstep.

The Kraken, a fictitious sea creature usually depicted resembling a giant squid, became popularised in 19th and early 20th-century poetry and fiction and featured in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, which was produced by NHL Seattle owner Jerry Bruckheimer.

"The Kraken represents the fiercest beast in all the world," the franchise said. "Too large and indomitable to be contained by man [or finned mammal]. It instils one message in all opponents whether in our waters, or theirs… Abandon all hope."

The Puget Sound on which the city of Seattle sits in the Pacific Northwest is also home to the world's largest octopus, the Giant Pacific octopus.

"If you encountered that in the depths of our Sound, you'd tell tales of one thing… You just saw the Kraken," said the team.

The Seattle Kraken was the favoured name among the fans, with 215,000 supporter votes, over 50 fan forums and 12 months of social media chat shaping the final decision.

The jerseys will come in 'deep sea blue', 'ice blue', 'boundless blue' and 'shadow blue', as well as 'red alert'.

The stadium is described as "the subterranean lair of the Seattle Kraken".

The team are due to compete in the NHL from the 2021-22 season.

The Edmonton Oilers' Leon Draisaitl, the Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers were on Tuesday named the 2019-20 finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL player deemed "most valuable to his team" by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The winner will be announced during either the conference finals or before the Stanley Cup final, which is tentatively scheduled to begin September 22.

The trio are also the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the league's most outstanding player voted for by members of the NHL Players' Association.

The two awards have had different winners in four of the previous 10 seasons, most recently in 2017-18 when the New Jersey Devils' Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy and Edmonton's Connor McDavid won the Ted Lindsay Award.

The 24-year-old Draisaitl has already secured the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader with 110 this season, tallying 43 goals and 67 assists. A first-time finalist for the Hart Trophy, Draisaitl also led the NHL with 44 power-play points, had a league-best 33 multi-point games and is seeking to become the first German-born player to win the award.

MacKinnon finished fifth in the league with 93 points and helped propel the Avalanche to the Western Conference's second-best record, tallying 43 more points than his closest Colorado team-mate. The runner-up to Hall in Hart Trophy voting in 2017-18, the 24-year-old Canadian is also a Lady Byng finalist for sportsmanship.

Panarin set career highs this season with 32 goals and 63 assists, and his 95 points tied the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak for third in the league. In his first season with the Rangers, the 28-year-old from Russia led the NHL with 71 even-strength points and his plus-36 plus-minus rating ranked first among all forwards. The first-time Hart finalist was the NHL rookie of the year in 2015-16 for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Panarin will all be a part of the league's 24-team expanded playoffs that is scheduled to begin on August 1.

The NHL revealed the coronavirus test results from the first five days of team training in the league's restart plan, showing just two new cases of COVID-19.  

Due to league policy, the names and teams of the players who have tested positive have not been made public.  

Since teams arrived for camps last Monday, the NHL had administered 2,618 tests to over 800 different players through Friday, the league said in a statement.  

The players who tested positive have self-isolated and are adhering to all U.S. and Canadian government regulations, the statement said.  

The results are an encouraging sign as teams prepare to move to the next phase of the NHL's restart plan: flying to either Toronto or Edmonton within the next week.  

Teams will resume playing games on August 1 within a 24-team expanded playoff structure. The first round of the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs is scheduled to begin on August 11.  

Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl and Artemi Panarin have been named as finalists for the 2019-20 Ted Lindsay Award, given to the NHL's most outstanding player.

MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche is a finalist for the second time, while the Edmonton Oilers' Draisaitl and New York Rangers' Panarin are first-time finalists for an award voted for by players.

The winner will be announced during the conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which are tentatively scheduled for September 8.

The award is separate from the Hart Memorial Trophy, an MVP award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

The two awards have had different winners in four of the previous 10 seasons, most recently in 2017-18 when Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy and Connor McDavid won the Ted Lindsay Award.

Draisaitl has already secured the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader with 110 this season, tallying 43 goals and 67 assists. He and McDavid are the league's most potent scoring duo and have largely been responsible for Edmonton's 37-25-9 record, fifth in the Western Conference.

MacKinnon has helped lead the Avalanche to the second-best record in the West this season. The former first overall draft pick has 35 goals and 58 assists this season and has outscored every other forward on his team by at least 48 points.

Panarin set career highs this season with 32 goals and 63 assists, and he led the NHL with 71 even-strength points. Panarin leads all NHL forwards in plus-minus this season at plus-36 while playing for a Rangers team that has a plus-13 goal differential.

Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Panarin will all be a part of the league's 24-team expanded playoffs that is expected to begin on August 1.

The top four teams in each conference – including MacKinnon's Avalanche – are guaranteed a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs and will play a round-robin to determine seeding. Colorado will face the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars once each for a chance at the West's seed.

Teams currently fifth to 12th in each conference – including Draisaitl's Oilers and Panarin's Rangers – will play a best-of-five qualifying series for a spot in the 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket. The Oilers will face the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks while the Rangers will play the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.

Eastern Conference games are scheduled to take place in Toronto, while Edmonton will host the Western Conference matchups. 

Page 1 of 11
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.