NHL Rumor Mill – May 13, 2019
Updates on Evgeni Malkin, Milan Lucic, Patrick Marleau, Matt Duchene, Jason Zucker, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
RUMOR HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a couple of NHL executives who felt there was something to the Evgeni Malkin trade rumors now think the speculation will die down. They suggest the goal of Penguins management was to rattle Malkin’s cage. The long-time Penguins center had a disappointing season, and some believe he could’ve played better.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I didn’t put much stock in the Malkin trade speculation. It arose because general manager Jim Rutherford declined to say he wouldn’t shop the veteran center.
If Rutherford was serious about trading Malkin, finding a deal wouldn’t be easy. He has a full no-movement clause and can kill any trade. He also carries a hefty salary-cap hit ($9.5 million annually for three more seasons). The Penguins would set a high asking price, one most clubs would be reluctant to pay for a 32-year-old center.
I’m not suggesting Malkin can’t be traded. Such a move, however, would be difficult to achieve.
Before the Edmonton Oilers hired Ken Holland as general manager, they considered buying out Milan Lucic’s contract if a workable trade couldn’t be found. The first four years will be expensive, but the cap hit drops to only $625K per season through the final four years. Friedman also said the Oilers’ asking price for Lucic was “unreasonable” a year ago.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates a Lucic buyout would result in a $3.625-million cap hit in 2019-20, jumping to $5.625 million in 2020-21, dropping to $4.125 million in 2021-22 and rising to $5.625 million in 2022-23.
Trading Lucic would be preferable to a buyout but he’ll have to be packaged with a significant sweetener. The other option is taking back a toxic contract that could be less painful to buy out, but that could prove easier said than done.
Friedman points out an “odd quirk” in the contract of Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Patrick Marleau. His signing bonus is paid in two installments (July and December), which “adds a wrinkle” to any possible trade. He points out Marleau still controls his future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like Malkin, Marleau has a full no-movement clause. Maybe a club would be willing to take him off the Leafs’ hands after July 1, when the first installment of his signing bonus is paid, but only with his blessing.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will have about $30 million in salary-cap room for next season. Friedman wonders if they’ll use that to target cap-strapped clubs or take a more patient approach. Center Matt Duchene is a UFA this summer and is expected to keep his options open. The Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens could be interested in him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets are going to lose Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency on July 1. GM Jarmo Kekalainen mortgaged part of his club’s future to land Duchene. He’ll have nothing to show for his investment if Duchene follows Panarin and Bobrovsky out the door. Kekalainen could be forced to overpay to keep the center in Columbus.
Friedman wonders what the future holds for Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and winger Jason Zucker. Spurgeon, 30, is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. Friedman claims there’s plenty of interest in the veteran blueliner, who is among the Wild’s few tradeable assets. He reminds us Zucker was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline and there’s always interest in scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Friedman that it would be surprising if Zucker returns with the Wild next season. GM Paul Fenton purged his roster of veterans he considered under-achievers in favor of younger, affordable talent. Zucker could be next.
As for Spurgeon, he reportedly wants to say in Minnesota and Fenton is keen to keep him. Much will depend, of course, on how expensive he’ll be to re-sign and for how long.
Friedman wonders what Cale Makar’s arrival on the Colorado Avalanche means for Tyson Barrie. The latter is a year away from UFA eligibility and has come up in previous trade chatter. Friedman said they’ve indicated to interested teams that it’ll take a “hockey trade” to get him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie’s fate could also depend upon how costly he’ll be to re-sign. GM Joe Sakic could attempt to re-sign him to an extension this summer. If Barrie proves too expensive to retain, Sakic could entertain trade offers.
It’s assumed the Winnipeg Jets will lose defenseman Tyler Myers to the UFA market. However, Friedman suggests that’ll depend upon whether they trade Jacob Trouba and what they get in return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With restricted free agents Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine in line for significant raises, the Jets can’t afford to re-sign Trouba and Myers. If they get a return of affordable young talent in return for Trouba, they could keep Myers in the fold. His asking price will also be a determining factor. Anything north of $6 million annually could be too expensive.
Friedman wondered how the Vegas Golden Knights will get under the salary cap for 2019-20. Defenseman Colin Miller fell out of favor and could be available but Vegas won’t be giving him away. Friedman feels there could be interest in Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have no choice but to “give away” a salaried player or two to free up sufficient cap room. Cap Friendly indicates their projected salary-cap hit is over $82.3 million for 2019-20. Karlsson is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. If they intend on re-signing him, they must shed salary.
They’ll get some cap relief by placing permanently sidelined David Clarkson ($5.25 million) on long-term injury reserve. However, they can’t do that until the start of the season. They could try to trade his dead cap space by bundling his rights with a draft pick or prospect to a budget-minded club that must reach the cap minimum. Miller’s been mentioned as a trade candidate, as well as center Cody Eakin.
The Vancouver Canucks will explore all possibilities regarding their blueline. It’s possible only one of Alex Edler, Ben Hutton and/or Chris Tanev return next season.
Friedman said the New York Islanders are working away at getting pending UFA center Brock Nelson under contract.