NHL Morning Links - Dec. 13

As is the norm in such cases, the just-fired fella is barely out the door and pro and amateur pundits alike are already assessing a list of perceived replacement candidates. We’d be surprised if Jay Feaster even had his desk emptied before some members of the Twitterverse had Joe Nieuwendyk’s house listed in Dallas.

Well, hold on just a second. After confirming he gave Feaster and assistant GM of hockey ops John Weisbrod the boot, Brian Burke made it clear that the process of hiring a new general manager for the Calgary Flames would take a little bit of time. But not too much, in case the Buffalo Sabres have their collective eye on the same candidate. And, no, Burke isn’t going to hire himself for the full-time job because that wasn’t the deal when he was brought into the Flames organization as president of hockey operations.

On to the candidates then. With the hiring process underway, ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun confirms an earlier report from TSN’s Darren Dreger that the Flames have, indeed, been granted permission by the Dallas Stars to speak with Nieuwendyk (no longer GM, but still on the Stars’ payroll). However, as nice a fit the marriage looks to be on paper, TSN’s Bob McKenzie points out that Nieuwendyk may not actually want the job. He's got it good, living the family life in Dallas. Who’s to say the former Flames captain would want to disrupt all of that.

Aside from Nieuwendyk, the usual suspects pepper the pool of perceived candidates, including Claude Loiselle (Toronto Maple Leafs), Dave Poulin (Maple Leafs/Toronto Marlies), Jim Benning (Boston Bruins) and Brad Treliving (Phoenix Coyotes). And the list doesn't end there, according to ESPN's Scott Burnside:

"... What about Laurence Gilman, a bright hockey mind who understands the Canadian hockey landscape as the assistant GM in Burke's old hockey home of Vancouver? ... Jason Botterill has been rumored to be a candidate for the Buffalo job, as has Tim Murray, the assistant GM in Ottawa whose uncle, Bryan, is the current Ottawa GM ... Paul Fenton in Nashville, Ron Hextall in Philadelphia and Tom Kurvers in Tampa are all assistant GMs whose work suggests they are worthy of a conversation, assuming they share Burke’s vision of how to revitalize the Flames' fortunes ..."

While the former Stars GM may be seen as the early favourite, he's by no means the only viable option to fill the Flames' void.

Some other bits to take away from Thursday’s firing in Calgary: As Feaster was let go, Sven Baertschi was sent down to the AHL. Neither coach Bob Hartley or the interim Grand Poobah (Burke) appears overly impressed with the 21-year-old forward … Burke’s fondness for big, gritty players doesn’t mean prospect John Gaudreau (five-foot-seven-ish) will be shipped elsewhere. Mike Cammalleri, however, is another story (but remember, Burke's holiday trade freeze is in effect until Dec. 27) … Because Feaster was the one to say “no”, Team Canada is going to ask again to borrow Sean Monahan for the world junior tournament. Can’t hurt …

Minor knee injury aside, there are questions about whether Jimmy Howard is good enough at present to be the Detroit Red Wings's No. 1 goaltender. There’s the suggestion that Jonas Gustavsson hold down the fort on a regular basis until Howard gets it together again.

Supporters of Team USA can breathe easy: Jonathan Quick is expected to be A-Okay well ahead of the 2014 Olympics. “The information that we have from Los Angeles, specifically from [Kings GM] Dean Lombardi, tells us that [Quick is] going to be back before the end of the year,” Team USA GM David Poile said. “If he's a guy that we want on the team, we will name him to the team.” Quick has been out with a strained groin since mid-November.

While on the topic of ailing American goalies, Tim Thomas is hurt again. The veteran netminder is considered questionable for the weekend after bolting from Florida Panthers practice early on Thursday. No word yet on the specifics of this latest issue, but Thomas is believed to have injured his groin twice already this season. Look for Scott Clemmensen to get the nod Friday if Thomas isn't well.

The Columbus Blue Jackets could be in an uncomfortable spot as far as goaltending is concerned. With No. 1 Sergei Bobrovsky (groin injury) already on the injured shelf, the Blue Jackets lost quality backup Curtis McElhinney (lower-body injury) in the first period of Thursday’s eventual 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. That potentially leaves Mike McKenna as the only healthy netminding body on the current roster. Yikes.

No timetable for return in place yet, but Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild is improving in his recovery from a concussion. Good news, considering the 21-year-old center was in pretty rough shape earlier this month.

The Anaheim Ducks are anticipating the return of defenseman Francois Beauchemin (upper-body injury) and center Mathieu Perreault (lower-body injury) this weekend. The Ducks sent defenseman Alex Grant and center David Steckel back to Norfolk to clear the necessary roster/lineup space. Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was also reassigned.

Rookie center Elias Lindholm may be hurt. Expect to hear more from the Carolina Hurricanes on Lindholm’s status Friday.

You’ve got to admire the guy’s timing. Enjoying the most productive season of his career – by like, a lot – Alexander Steen is currently playing for his next contract. But even though the UFA-to-be could command some serious bucks on the market next summer, he insists he wants to remain with the fiscally-conservative St. Louis Blues. We’ll see.

The head coach of the Vancouver Canucks is having issue with finding the right linemate for Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. And Zack Kassian isn’t the answer, as per John Tortorella. Fortunately, Alex Burrows is due back in just over a couple of weeks.

Update on “StromeWatch 2013”: After opting to hold off on throwing the rookie out there Thursday, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano is expected to play Ryan Strome Saturday versus the Canadiens. Newsday’s Arthur Staple suggests the 20-year-old center may line up with Cal Clutterbuck and Brock Nelson. If not Clutterbuck, maybe Josh Bailey.

If Michael Raffl continues to compete like he did Thursday against the Canadiens, he should stick on the Philadelphia Flyers' top line with Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, in place of Scott Hartnell.