Ilya Kovalchuk is rumored to be on the trade block plus the latest on Jesse Puljujarvi and the Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.
KOVALCHUK ON THE OUTS WITH THE KINGS?
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Jack Harris cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting that the Kings will keep Ilya Kovalchuk out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. Harris also mentioned The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta claiming the club was exploring trade options for the 36-year-old winger. He carries a no-movement clause this season and a $6.25-million annual average value. Another report linked Kovalchuk with a possible return to the KHL.
General manager Rob Blake declined to comment about Kovalchuk’s future with the club. He claimed the winger hasn’t made a trade request and also pointed out he has a no-movement clause. Blake left open the possibility Kovalchuk could return to the lineup in the club’s next game on Thursday.
A reminder as reported before that Kovalchuk’s final signing bonus money is payable Dec. 15 after which he’s only collecting on his $700k salary for the rest of the season. He does, however, have a $4.25 M salary on the books for next season… if he’s still in the NHL https://t.co/DGEia1juWX
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 12, 2019
Would love to have heard the conversation between Rob Blake and his bosses about this. Blake gave him too much money and too much term. https://t.co/d65jP9Qfgd
— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) November 12, 2019
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Kovalchuk is unwilling to waive his no-movement clause there’s nothing Blake can do other than to park him in the press box and hope he changes his mind. Maybe a move to a deeper club might spark his offense, but I doubt it. He’s 36 and no longer an explosive offensive talent.
Blake paid Kovalchuk too much for too long and further handcuffed himself with that no-movement clause. If the winger agrees to waive that clause, his cap hit could prove a sticking point unless Blake picks up part of it. If the Kings GM can’t find any takers, he could buy out that final season next June. However, Kovalchuk’s on a 35-plus contract, meaning the cap hit will still count for 2020-21.
UPDATE ON PULJUJARVI
TSN: During the latest “Insider Trading” segment, Darren Dreger said he believes Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland is fine with Jesse Puljujarvi playing the remainder of this season in Finland. He also said some NHL teams continue to inquire about the 21-year-old winger. They will continue to investigate and scout the restricted free agent. Dreger claims one team would like Puljujarvi to return to the NHL to evaluate him on the smaller ice surface.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Puljujarvi isn’t signed by Dec. 1 he’ll be ineligible to play the remainder of this NHL season. The Oilers could trade him to a club willing to sign him before that deadline. Unless Holland gets a tempting offer, however, I think he’s content to wait until next summer.
SABRES SEEKING A FORWARD?
TSN: In the same segment, Pierre LeBrun believes the Buffalo Sabres could work the phones for a top-nine forward after Vladimir Sobotka was injured during last week’s Global Series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has no idea if the Sabres are interested in Puljujarvi.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For weeks there’s been some talk of the Sabres perhaps shopping a defenseman to bring in a right-side winger. Sobotka’s injury could step up their efforts if he’s out long-term as LeBrun believes. With the Sabres slumping after a hot start to the season, this situation could be worth watching.
Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko enjoys his first two-goal NHL game, Sidney Crosby considers sports-hernia surgery, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: New York Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko enjoyed his first multi-goal game in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kakko scored twice, including the winner in overtime. The Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, who is considering surgery for a sports hernia and could miss four-to-six weeks.
The Florida Panthers overcame a 4-0 deficit to upset the Boston Bruins 5-4 on shootout goals by Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman. Jonathan Huberdeau and Keith Yandle each collected three points. Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up four goals on 23 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers have put their slow start behind them and are rising in the Eastern Conference standings. Bobrovsky’s shaky performance, however, remains a nagging issue. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has a 6-3-4 record with a bloated 3.52 goals-against average and a woeful .881 save percentage.
Colorado Avalanche rookie goaltender Adam Werner had a 40-save shutout in his NHL debut to blank the Winnipeg Jets 4-0. Werner replaced Pavel Francouz 41 seconds into the game following a collision with Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele. The extent of Francouz’s injury remains unknown. Teammate Ryan Graves said he saw the goalie walking around later and he seemed ok.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With starter Philipp Grubauer still sidelined and his return to action still uncertain, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Francouz.
Jonathan Drouin’s shootout goal gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carey Price made 33 saves for the Habs, who’ve won six of their last eight games to sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray returned to action following a quicker-than-expected recovery from a broken thumb.
The Arizona Coyotes got shootout goals from Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland to edge the St. Louis Blues 3-2, snapping the latter’s seven-game winning streak. Darcy Kuemper made 33 stops and Clayton Keller had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who sit fourth overall in the Western Conference.
Elias Pettersson and Tanner Pearson each scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Nashville Predators 5-3. Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko kicked out 34 shots. The Canucks are fifth in the Western Conference.
The San Jose Sharks picked up their fourth straight win by thumping the Edmonton Oilers 6-3. Erik Karlsson picked up three assists for the Sharks. Leon Draisaitl had a goal and an assist for the Oilers.
The Detroit Red Wings picked up their season-hight third straight win by nipping the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on an overtime goal by Dennis Cholowski. Wings center Dylan Larkin scored late in the game to force the extra frame. After a strong start to this season, the Ducks have slid out of a wild-card position in the West.
Jonathan Quick turned aside 27 shots as the Los Angeles Kings ended a three-game winless skid by dropping the Minnesota Wild 3-1. Anze Kopitar and Sean Walker each had a goal and an assist.
Which players should the Kings trade this season? Are there changes in store for the Wild? What next for Jesse Puljujarvi? The latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
A LOOK AT SEVERAL KINGS TRADE CANDIDATES
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Cooper wondered if Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake might be too patient with his rebuild. He feels the longer Blake waits, the more likely he’ll be dealing from a position of weakness. He suggested forwards Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Alec Martinez as the Kings’ best trade candidates.
Carter was rumored to have threatened retirement last season if the Kings attempted to trade him. A rival GM said Carter didn’t have much asset value. (Spector’s note: In an earlier version, I wrote Carter has a no-movement clause. He lacks no-trade protection. My apologies for the error)
The same goes for Toffoli, who could fetch a second-round pick and second-tier prospect. Martinez has been steady this season and would be attractive to rival clubs.
Cooper doesn’t expect winger Ilya Kovalchuk, goalie Jonathan Quick or forward Trevor Lewis to attract much interest. Kovalchuk has a no-movement clause and is in decline. Quick’s numbers have tanked plus he carries a $5.8-million annual salary-cap hit. An NHL scout said every team has a player like Lewis, meaning he has little-to-no trade value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli could be traded unless he and the Kings hammer out a contract extension before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. He’s a two-way forward and a former 30-goal scorer. However, his performance has declined since last season. He won’t bring in much of a return unless his play improves.
Carter is 34 and his best years are well behind him. He’s signed through 2021-22 with an annual average value of $5.275 million. The Kings would have to pick up a hefty chunk of that cap hit. That might not be enough to tempt other clubs.
Martinez might draw the best return. The 32-year-old carries an affordable $4 million AAV through 2020-21 and lacks no-trade protection. I expect he’ll draw plenty of attention in the trade market once the calendar flips to January.
LATEST ON THE WILD
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Minnesota Wild first-year GM Bill Guerin isn’t ready to give up on this season. He’s encouraged by what he’s seen from their recent West Coast road trip and thinks they could be heading in the right direction. He didn’t rule out making a move to help his club if the opportunity arises. However, he also didn’t rule out a roster rebuild if things don’t improve as the season progresses.
Guerin’s biggest need is a game-breaker, something the Wild’s been lacking since Marian Gaborik left town. He acknowledged it’s nearly impossible landing that player via trade as historically they tend to come through the draft. He was also non-committal over the future of head coach Bruce Boudreau. His contract expires at the end of this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have recovered somewhat from an awful start to this season. However, they’ve still got a lot of ground to cover to get back into the playoff chase. Time remains on their side but they cannot afford any more long winless skids. Once we get to mid-January, I expect we’ll have a better idea of what Guerin has in store for the Wild.
PULJUJARVI TO STAY IN FINLAND THIS SEASON
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples believes it’s a good idea Jesse Puljujarvi will play out this season in Finland. The 21-year-old winger is coming off major surgery and a bad season with the Edmonton Oilers that damaged his confidence.
A restricted free agent, Puljujarvi opted to return to Finland while awaiting a trade by the Oilers. He could still be moved but that seems less likely now. A strong season in Finland could improve his trade value next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even with Puljujarvi off to a good start in Finland, he was unlikely to fetch a decent return right now. Better to wait and see how things unfold over the remainder of the season and attempt to move him next summer.