NHL Rumor Mill – July 16, 2019

An updated list of the best remaining UFAs plus the latest Rangers and Islanders speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


THE SCORE: updated their listing of the best available unrestricted free agents by position. That includes Jake Gardiner, Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, Cam Ward, and Thomas Vanek. Other notables include Patrick Marleau, Pat Maroon, Derick Brassard, Jason Pominville, and Niklas Kronwall. 

Jake Gardiner remains the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those on his list, only Gardiner can be considered still in his playing prime. The rest are all past their best-before date. Many observers are surprised Gardiner remains available. Some suggest he was hoping to be signed by the Leafs but that doesn’t seem possible with Mitch Marner due for a big raise. Last season’s back injury could also be dampening his UFA value.

It’s expected Thornton will be back for one more season with the Sharks. Their recent re-signing of Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1-million deal prompted speculation this could also allow them to bring back Marleau for a last hurrah.

Maroon would love to stay in St. Louis but the Blues are said to be offering a one-year deal and he wants a multi-year contract. Williams is said to be mulling retirement. If he does decide to play it’ll only be with the Hurricanes.

Some Quebec pundits suggest the Montreal Canadiens should sign a Quebecker like Pominville or Brassard. It remains to be seen if the Habs intend to take that advice. 


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton still has to figure out how he’ll shed some salary to make room for restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. That includes deciding the future of winger Chris Kreider, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. “Also on the trade block would be restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich, as well as Vladislav Namestnikov.”

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples noted Cyrgalis’ report that Buchnevich could be on the trade block and wonders if the Edmonton Oilers should look at him. Staples feels Buchnevich could fill a need for the Oilers. He also noted a rumor suggesting the possibility of the Oilers acquiring Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. He also pondered the notion of the Oilers using unhappy winger Jesse Puljujarvi in a deal for Buchnevich, Bennett, or another forward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buchnevich was considered part of the Rangers’ youth movement. Their recent, expensive signing of Artemi Panarin and their need to re-sign Trouba could make the 24-year-old winger expendable. He had 43 points in 2017-18 and tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season. He’s filed for arbitration, which could also determine his future in New York. The Rangers probably prefer moving Namestnikov and his $4-million cap hit for 2019-20 but Buchnevich would probably attract more interest.

As for the Oilers landing Bennett, I don’t think the Flames want to move him. But if they do, it’ll likely be anywhere other than up the road to their biggest rival. 

Cyrgalis also believes defenseman Nick Leddy remains the New York Islanders’ “best possible trade piece.” He feels the 28-year-old blueliner’s contract ($5.5 million annually through 2021-22) would be attractive in the trade market. However, Leddy isn’t likely to fetch a return that turns the Isles into a contender. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy was linked to the Canadiens last month. So far, however, there’s no indication they’re interested in acquiring him. Indeed, things have gone quiet on the Leddy trade rumors since late June. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 16, 2019

William Nylander changes his jersey number, the Avalanche re-sign Andre Burakovsky, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander announced he’ll be changing his jersey number to 88. He wore that number when he played in Sweden. He’s hoping for a bounce-back season after a sub-par performance in 2018-19. 

William Nylander caused a stir among Toronto Maple Leafs fans by changing his number to 88 (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nylander’s decision caused a bit of a stir yesterday among some denizens of Leafs Nation. Hall of Famer and former Leafs Eric Lindros wore No. 88 and some Leafs fans felt Nylander was either being disrespectful of Lindros’ legacy or should’ve asked his permission. That’s just ridiculous. Patrick Kane, Brent Burns, David Pastrnak and Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t need anyone’s permission to wear 88.  Besides, Lindros only played 33 games for the Leafs and he probably doesn’t give a crap who wears that number. 

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed winger Andre Burakovsky to a one-year, $3.25-million contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. He was acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 28. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a “show-me” contract. Burakovsky has size, speed and offensive skills but he struggled to put forth a consistent performance during his years with the Capitals. Perhaps skating with new teammates will help him reach his full potential.

THE SCORE: Forward Sonny Milano has accepted the Columbus Blue Jackets’ qualifying offer. It’s a one-year contract worth over $874K. 

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed forward Clark Bishop to a one-year, two-way contract. 

SPORTSDAY: Former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow returns to the club as the director of business and hockey development. He spent 13 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Stars. 

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks hired Kevin Dineen as their new head coach of their AHL affiliate in San Diego. 

NEW YORK POST: Former NHL player Sean Avery “rejected a plea deal Monday in Manhattan Criminal Court for hitting a car with his scooter after it blocked a bike lane in Greenwich Village.”

The Latest on the Top NHL RFAs


NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2019

Updates on Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris, David Backes and more in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently reported Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie seeks $8-million annually on his next contract. Earlier this month, the Leafs acquired the 27-year-old Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche. He’s a year away from unrestricted free agent status and ranks sixth in scoring among NHL defensemen over the past two seasons.

Can the Leafs afford to re-sign Tyson Barrie after this season? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Avalanche weren’t going to pay Barrie $8 million per season. Fox speculates the Leafs might, depending upon how well their overhauled blueline corps performs in 2019-20. Morgan Rielly is the only Leafs defenseman under contract beyond this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon Barrie’s performance. So will their cap space for 2020-21. According to Cap Friendly, the Leafs have over $55.3 million invested in just 12 players. They still have to re-sign Mitch Marner this summer.

Assuming Marner’s next contract is worth between $8.5 million – $10.5 million, the Leafs could have between $63 million to $65 million wrapped up in 13 players. Depending upon how much the cap rises for 2020-21, they won’t have much left to re-sign Barrie and flesh out the rest of the lineup.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas did a fine job this summer shedding burdensome contracts while addressing his roster’s weaknesses. Time will tell if he can successfully walk that salary-cap tightrope again next summer. 


THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan recently reported the Nashville Predators appear willing to retain Kyle Turris this season. The 29-year-old center struggled in 2018-19 but Predators GM David Poile hopes he’ll bounce back. The Preds addition of Matt Duchene via free agency sparked speculation over Turris’ future in Nashville. If he struggles again his trade value will decline, especially with his $6-million per season contract.

Vingan noted Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman floated the notion of the Montreal Canadiens pursuing Turris before free agency. The Habs had interest in Duchene and made a failed attempt to sign Carolina’s Sebastian Aho. Vingan’s colleague Marc Dumont believed the Predators would either have to pick up half of Turris’ salary-cap hit or take back defenseman Karl Alzner. 

In a recent mailbag segment, Vingan was asked about the likelihood of Turris or Nick Bonino getting moved before the start of the season. He won’t be surprised if they’re still with the club on opening night. Given the Preds’ limited salary-cap space, however, he can see one of them being part of a cost-cutting trade. He felt Bonino was a more likely trade candidate. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators have over $5 million in cap space with Colton Sissons and Rocco Grimaldi still to re-sign. They should have enough to get both under contract but, as Granger points out, they won’t have much wiggle room for other moves.

The Canadiens have over $4.8 million in cap space. The Predators will have to absorb half of Turris’ cap hit to make him enticing. Even then, I doubt he’s on GM Marc Bergevin’s radar. At $4.1 million annually through 2020-21, Bonino is more affordable than Turris but his cap hit could still be a stumbling block. 


BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites “a league source with knowledge of the situation” claiming the New Jersey Devils could have interest in Boston Bruins forward David Backes. The 35-year-old has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million.

The Bruins have around $8 million in salary-cap space and must re-sign restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Shedding Backes’ contract via trade would free up more cap room. The Bruins might have to include a sweetener, such as their first-round pick in 2020, which GM Don Sweeney is reluctant to move. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Murphy notes the Devils have the cap space ($19.8 million) to comfortably absorb Backes’ cap hit. However, they’ll want something worthwhile included in the deal. Otherwise, the Devils could ask the Bruins to pick up part of Backes’ cap hit. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 15, 2019

A look at the Central Division, Tyler Seguin believes the Stars are “all-in” for the coming season, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck believes the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche are on the rise in the Central Division. He also believes the Nashville Predators and the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues remain strong. It remains to be seen how the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks perform following their offseason move. The Minnesota Wild, meanwhile, are expected to struggle. 

SPORTSDAY: Speaking of the Stars, Tyler Seguin believes they’re all-in in 2019-20 following the additions of Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, and Andrej Sekera.

Tyler Seguin is pleased with the Dallas Stars’ off-season acquisitions (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pavelski will certainly improve the Stars’ scoring depth. The jury’s out on an aging Corey Perry, who missed most of last season to a knee injury. If Sekera can rebound from the injuries that sidelined him for most of the past two seasons, he should be an effective addition to their blueline. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Thanks for friend and former Bruins teammate Cam Neely, Geoff Courtnall is celebrating nearly a decade of sobriety and wants to help others. Courtnall spent 17 seasons in the NHL with five teams – five with the Bruins – from 1983-84 to 1999-2000. 

YARDBARKER: Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov signed a one-year contract with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. Voynov is under a one-year suspension by the NHL “as additional punishment from his domestic abuse incident back in 2014”. While that suspension was cut in half in May, the Kings have no intention of bringing him back and no other NHL club is interested in his rights. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Voynov is toxic in the NHL. No club wants the bad publicity they’ll get from signing him. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Golden Knights “sold player-worn gear and team-issued equipment at City National Arena.”  

NEW YORK POST: The New Jersey Devils mascot accidentally broke at window at a children’s birthday party on Sunday. 

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