NHL Rumor Mill – May 19, 2018
The weekly John Tavares update, the latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and possible free-agent/trade targets for the Vancouver Canucks in your NHL rumor mill.
TAVARES RUMOR UPDATE
WGR 550: Joe DiBiase cites TSN’s Gord Miller recently suggesting the Buffalo Sabres could be a destination for New York Islanders center John Tavares if he tests this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. “I’ve started talking to NHL people since the lottery, I think this makes the Sabres a legit contender to sign John Tavares. Tavares wants to win. That’s his number one thing, he wants to win and he wants to play in a hockey market. Buffalo is a good hockey market. Now you got Rasmus Dahlin coming, they already have Ristolainen, got Eichel, they’ve got an owner who’s willing to spend money,” said Miller. He also noted that Buffalo is close to Tavares’ hometown of Toronto.
Miller’s colleague Darren Dreger, however, disagrees about Buffalo as a destination for Tavares. “I wouldn’t say 0%, but I’d say as close to 0% as you can get… I don’t think that John Tavares knows anything about Rasmus Dahlin. Next to nothing. Until he and future free agents see this kid on the ice and know he can play, I don’t know the influence is there. If Tavares goes to free agency, I’m not saying he’d dismiss the possibility of Buffalo, I’m just saying Buffalo would be further down the list.”
Dreger instead suggests the Nashville Predators could be a suitor for Tavares, though they’d have to get creative from a salary-cap perspective. He also believes the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks could be among the bidders. Dreger also doesn’t think Tavares would shy away from playing for a Canadian team, but feels he’s more interested in which club would be the best fit when it comes to winning. That’s why Dreger doesn’t see the Montreal Canadiens as a fit for Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If playing for a winner is important for Tavares, I agree with Dreger that we can probably rule out Buffalo and Montreal. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a promising club but they’ve already got a superstar center in Austin Matthews who’s soon to receive a significant pay raise, making it difficult for the Leafs to sign Tavares to a long-term deal. While Predators GM David Poile has a reputation for making bold moves, I don’t think this is one he’s willing or able to make. I concur with Dreger’s take on Vegas, St. Louis and San Jose as potential suitors.
LATEST ON EKMAN-LARSSON
FRS NETWORK HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Darren Dreger appearing on Montreal’s TSN 690 discussing a recent report out of Arizona claiming the Coyotes are discussing an eight-year contract extension with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Dreger said he was told the Coyotes were offering up $8 million annually. He doubts that will get it done, believing it’ll take at least $9 million per season. He wonders what might be the “kick-away” number for the Coyotes that causes them to consider trading Ekman-Larsson if they can’t agree to an extension..
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Coyotes feel Ekman-Larsson’s seeking too much money, they could start fielding trade offers for him. Still, they could be willing to pay him $9 million annually to keep him in the fold. Perhaps they could front load the deal to reach the $8-million annual average value.
LEFT WING OPTIONS FOR THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: Jason Brough recently speculated over the possible left-wing scoring options for the Vancouver Canucks. One free-agent choice could be pursuing San Jose Sharks winger (and Vancouver native) Evander Kane, but with the Sedins gone, Brough would be surprised if the Canucks land a big fish this summer. Former Canuck Thomas Vanek is another, but unless they can get him cheap, Brough feels they should pass. A trade option could be Pittsburgh’s swift-skating Carl Hagelin, who has a year left on his contract, kill penalties and could be used as a trade-deadline bargaining chip.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brough also suggests the Canucks could look toward internal alternatives such as Jake Virtanen or Nikolay Goldobin. They could go with younger players within their system, but I can also see them bringing in an affordable veteran for short-term depth via trade or free agency. With the Canucks looking to get faster, Hagelin might be the best option, depending upon what the Penguins want in return.