NHL Rumor Mill – November 5, 2018
Latest on the Kings and Islanders in your NHL rumor mill.
ARE MORE CHANGES IN STORE FOR THE KINGS?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: In the wake of the Los Angeles Kings replacing head coach John Stevens with interim bench boss Willie Desjardins, Jared Clinton speculated more changes could be in store if they fail to right the ship. He points out several players are struggling this season, including captain Anze Kopitar, defenseman Dion Phaneuf, winger Tanner Pearson, and forward Adrian Kempe.
General manager Rob Blake said they’ll be evaluating the players as much as the staff. If things don’t improve, Clinton thinks the Kings could shake up the roster by midseason or at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A coaching change is sometimes done by a general manager lacking suitable trade options to improve the roster. That’s where the Kings find themselves now. Defensemen Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin recently surfaced in the rumor mill but it’s doubtful Blake is getting any offers from rival general managers that will provide immediate help.
If the Kings don’t improve, Blake could go into sell mode. With several aging veterans (Kopitar, Phaneuf, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick) carrying expensive contracts and many with no-trade clauses, trading any of them for decent returns will be difficult. Martinez, Muzzin, Pearson or Tyler Toffoli could prove easier to move.
CAN THE ISLANDERS RE-SIGN LEE?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently praised New York Islanders captain Anders Lee for the fine job he’s done thus far filling the leadership void from John Tavares signing with Toronto this summer. Lee’s also developed into one of the league’s most productive scorers, making him expensive to re-sign.
Brooks noted Lee, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, carries a $3.75-million annual average value while earning an actual salary of $5 million this season. He believes the 28-year-old winger will be in line for a substantial raise, adding it remains uncertainty if the Islanders will pony up to keep him. “Maybe that becomes an issue approaching the trade deadline,” writes Brooks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Following a slight dip in production during his 2015-16 sophomore season, Lee’s numbers have steadily improved. He tallied 34 goals and 52 points in 2016-17 and 40 goals and 62 points in 2017-18. This season, he’s on pace for an 82-point campaign and sits second among Islanders scorers.
Even if Lee isn’t re-signed by the trade deadline, I doubt the Islanders shop him, especially if they’re in the thick of the playoff chase. I think they’ll do all they can to keep Lee in the fold. Cap Friendly indicates they have $47.7 million invested in 15 players, giving them more than enough to re-sign Lee and their other notable free agents. Yes, they failed to re-sign Tavares but that doesn’t mean they’ll face the same fate with Lee.