Are major moves coming for the Lightning? Should the Oilers pursue Nikolaj Ehlers? Will the Canadiens attempt to sign Matt Duchene this summer? Check out the latest speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LIGHTNING WON’T REPLACE COACH OR CORE PLAYERS
NHL.COM: Two days after the Tampa Bay Lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Dan Rosen reports Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois is standing by head coach Jon Cooper and his core players. “I have great faith that eventually we’re going to get the job done and we’re going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches,” BriseBois said.
The Lightning GM also said he wasn’t going to overreact simply because his club suffered an inopportune four-game slump following their record-tying 62-win regular season. BriseBois admitted salary-cap constraints will result in some roster changes. Defensemen Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and Jan Rutta are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. He also anticipates restricted free agent center Brayden Point will sign a long-term contract with the Lightning.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell believes the Lightning’s limited salary-cap space for next season and the need to re-sign Point this summer and starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy next summer leaves BriseBois facing some tough choices. He notes the no-trade clauses in the contracts of Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde make them difficult to move. Campbell wonders if they’ll have to part with some assets to have a team take aging winger Ryan Callahan’s $5.8-million salary-cap hit off their hands, or if they’ll trade Point’s rights or allow another club to offer sheet the center and take the bounty of draft picks they’ll get as compensation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning have over $73 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Assuming the cap reaches the projected $83 million, they’ll have roughly $10 million to work with. Point is coming off a 92-point campaign and is in line for a big raise. He could, however, follow the lead of teammates like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov and accept less than market value to stay in sunny, tax-free Tampa Bay. Still, his raise could eat up around $7 million of their cap room for next season.
BriseBois indicated his intention to re-sign Point, meaning a player or two under contract for next season must be moved. Callahan has one year remaining on his contract and would be an obvious trade candidate but a significant sweetener must be included in the deal to get a rival club to take on his full cap hit for next season.
Johnson has a full no-trade clause and probably won’t waive it. Gourde’s clause, however, doesn’t kick in until July 1, giving BriseBois the leeway he needs to move him before that date. Having re-signed Gourde last November, however, BriseBois could be reluctant to move him.
I believe J.T. Miller could be shopped this summer. He’s a versatile 26-year-old forward carrying a reasonable $5.25-million cap hit whose modified no-trade clause doesn’t go into effect until July 1.
RECENT OILERS SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers would be a good fit with the Edmonton Oilers. While they have limited cap space and Ehlers makes $6 million annually for the next six season, he’s the type of young, swift-skating offensive forward they need on their scoring lines.
Matheson points out the Jets face a potential salary-cap crunch this summer with Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba becoming restricted free agents and Tyler Myers eligible for UFA status. He suggests the Oilers bundle their 2019 first-round pick with struggling winger Jesse Puljujarvi for Ehlers. The Jets traded away their 2019 first-rounder acquiring Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers and Puljujarvi would be reunited with Laine, his former teammate from their World Junior days.
THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined which Edmonton Oilers players could be on the move this summer once a new general manager is hired. He expects free agents such as Tobia Rieder, Ty Rattie, Alex Petrovic and Anthony Stolarz won’t be back. Those facing uncertain futures in Edmonton include wingers Jesse Puljujarvi and Alex Chiasson, and defensemen Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, and Matt Benning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the Jets would entertain an offer of the eighth overall pick plus Puljujarvi for the chance to dump Ehlers $6-million cap hit and using the savings to re-sign Laine and Connor. That’s assuming, of course, they’re willing to take the chance on Puljujarvi regaining his scoring touch with Laine and that they want to move Ehlers in the first place.
It’s an interesting suggestion by Matheson, but taking on Ehler’s $6 million pushes the Oilers’ cap hit to over $77 million invested in 16 players for 2019-20. Assuming an $83 million cap for next season, that leaves less than $6 million to fill out the rest of the roster. They’ll have to shed some other salary to give themselves sufficient wiggle room.
COULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE DUCHENE THIS SUMMER?
TVA SPORTS: cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently telling Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 he can see the Montreal Canadiens pursuing Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene in this summer’s UFA market. “I still think Montreal will take a run at him, they were around at the trade deadline, I think they take a look at this in the offseason,” said Friedman. He noted the lack of quality centers available in this summer’s UFA market and Duchene’s value is already quite high.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman has previously indicated in the past that the Canadiens had interest in Duchene prior to his trade to the Blue Jackets before February’s trade deadline. Should the cap reach $83 million next season as projected, they’ll have around $18 million in cap space to take on a significant asset like Duchene. That’s if he’s even available and willing to sign with the Habs.
Duchene is playing well for the Jackets, who are likely to lose left winger Artemi Panarin to free agency on July 1. They gave up a lot (conditional first round picks in the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts, right winger Vitaly Abramov and right wing Jonathan Davidsson) to get Duchene. With over $51.4 million invested in 15 players next season, they have plenty of room to re-sign him if he wants to stay.