NHL Rumor Mill – August 19, 2017
Latest on the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes plus an update on Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples addressed speculation suggesting the Oilers could be forced to part ways with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after this season because of salary-cap constraints and the possibility he’ll be pushed down to the third-line center spot.
Staples thinks Nugent-Hopkins could get choice minutes alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. He predicts the 24-year-old could have a career year and the Oilers will find a way to retain him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Oilers prefer to retain Nugent-Hopkins, who’s developed into a good two-way forward capable of filling the second- or third-line center position. However, I must respectfully disagree with Staples’ take.
The Oilers have over $60 million invested in just 13 players for 2018-19. Barring a surge in the Canadian dollar over the course of this season, the salary cap will likely rise to just over $77 million. That won’t leave much room to re-sign or replace their free agents or to bring in outside help to address a roster weakness.
That salary-cap crunch will force Chiarelli into shedding another big contract to free up more dollars. Nugent-Hopkins is the most likely to be dealt. A career performance on his part would enhance his trade value, making it easier for Chiarelli to find a club willing to take on his $6 million annual cap hit. RNH won’t be dealt during this season but I see him on the trade block next June.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander recently reported Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis is comfortable with his current roster, but isn’t ruling out taking action if a deal comes along that helps his club. Addressing team owner Peter Karmanos’ comment that the club lacked a first-line center but had four No.2 centers, Francis notes such players are in limited supply around the league and believes his club is in good shape at that position.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still think Francis will be in the market for a playmaking center this season. There’s speculation he could be forced to draw upon his depth on defense to address that need. If so, I think Justin Faulk would be the likely trade candidate. Last month, Francis seemingly ruled out pursuing Colorado’s Matt Duchene, saying he didn’t want to part with assets for a player who could depart via free agency in a year or two.
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan reports University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery believes the New Jersey Devils are high on defenseman Will Butcher’s list of potential NHL destinations. Montgomery coached Butcher during the latter’s four NCAA seasons. The young blueliner is now an unrestricted free agent and is currently meeting with several NHL clubs.