Updates on the Sabres, Canucks, and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON RISTOLAINEN AND POMINVILLE
THE BUFFALO NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked if Rasmus Ristolainen will be in the Buffalo Sabres lineup on opening night. He felt the 24-year-old defenseman’s recent comments to a Finnish news outlet indicated he wants out of Buffalo. Lysowski doubted general manager Jason Botterill pulls the trigger unless he gets a package he wants in return. That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.
In his 10 Sabres storylines to watch, Lysowski noted Ristolainen’s departure seemed imminent when the Sabres acquired right-shot rearguards Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju this summer. Botterill and head coach Ralph Kruger sound prepared for Ristolainen’s return but Lysowski wondered what role he’d play.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Yerden also weighed in on Ristolainen’s future with the Sabres. They’re not aggressively shopping the defenseman and he hasn’t publicly requested a trade but tension remains in the air.
Yerden suggested the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and Anaheim Ducks as potential destinations. It’s possible Ristolainen might not be moved until sometime during the regular season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The additions of Miller and Jokiharju seems to set the stage for trading Ristolainen. However, if Botterill doesn’t get a decent offer, the blueliner will likely be back for training camp and the start of the regular season.
Ristolainen could stage a holdout but it doesn’t sound like he’s interested in that. If things improve under Kruger, perhaps he will feel more positive about sticking around.
WGR 550: Paul Hamilton reports veteran winger Jason Pominville would still like to return to the Sabres this season. Now an unrestricted free agent, he’s working out in Buffalo with several players (including Sabres d-man Rasmus Dahlin). Botterill said he hasn’t closed the door on bringing back Pominville.
UPDATES ON BOESER AND ERIKSSON
VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma reports the Canucks are still hopeful of getting restricted free agent winger Brock Boeser under contract before training camp opens next month. Prorating Boeser’s 56 points last season would give him 66. That would align the 22-year-old with San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier, who inked a four-year, $24-million extension this summer.
Canucks GM Jim Benning said Meier and Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor came up as comparables with Boeser’s camp. He said talks remain constructive as they seek to reach common ground. Boeser’s agent, Ben Hankinson, prefers a four-year deal worth $7 million annually because today’s top players outperform longer commitments.
Meier’s contract is backloaded to give the Sharks an initial break on annual average salary but climbs to $10 million in the final season. He’ll be an RFA when it expires, meaning the qualifying offer will be $10 million. Benning is concerned about that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what Boeser’s contract eventually looks like but I don’t see Benning agreeing to a deal that’s heavily backloaded. I expect it’ll be in the $7 million AAV range.
Benning on Eriksson: “I had conversations with Loui. At one point in the summer we had conversations with teams to see if there might be a fit for him somewhere – it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now.”
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 20, 2019
COULD THE BLACKHAWKS TRADE GUSTAFSSON?
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Lazerus was asked about the possibility of the Chicago Blackhawks trading Erik Gustafsson at the trade deadline. The 27-year-old defenseman enjoyed a breakout performance last season with 60 points.
If Gustafsson continues playing well, Lazerus suggested the Blackhawks could shop him as they likely couldn’t afford to re-sign him. If they’re out of the playoff races by the deadline, it could be an easy decision to make.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $61.8 million invested in just 13 players for 2020-21. In addition to Gustafsson, goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner will be eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Budding stars Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome will be restricted free agents coming off their entry-level contracts.
Assuming the cap reaches $84 million next season, the Hawks will have around $22 million in cap room. It won’t be enough to keep all their notable free agents. If Crawford’s health issues remain a concern and Lehner plays well, and if they can convince DeBrincat and/or Strome to accept bridge contract, perhaps they could squeeze in a raise for Gustafsson. Otherwise, he could become the odd man out.
The Wild hire Bill Guerin as their new general manager, the Senators re-sign Colin White, the Islanders sign Derick Brassard and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild yesterday named Bill Guerin as their new general manager. Guerin spent 18 seasons as an NHL player and the past decade as an executive with the Pittsburgh Penguins, including the past five years as assistant GM.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild hope Guerin, a proven winner as a player and in management, can right the ship and change the culture after they missed the playoffs last season. He didn’t waste any time getting started, re-signing forward Joel Eriksson Ek to a two-year, $2.975-million contract.
Guerin must also re-sign restricted free agent winger Kevin Fiala. He must decide if defenseman Jared Spurgeon still has a future with the Wild as he enters the final season of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: White is considered a core player for the rebuilding Senators. The 22-year-old played 23 games between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Last season was his first full NHL campaign and he didn’t disappointed, tallying 41 points in 71 games to finish fifth among NHL rookies.
A swift, versatile two-way forward, White should prove worthy of his new contract over the next six years. Given his upside, this deal could turn into a bargain for the Sens.
NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders yesterday signed center Derick Brassard to a one-year, $1.2-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for recent speculation claiming Brassard was on the verge of joining the Edmonton Oilers. The Isles hope the 31-year-old will provide some much-needed depth at center on their bottom-six.
MILE HIGH HOCKEY: (stick tap to Shawn Lamba) cites a report out of Finland indicating Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen “is set to travel to Hamar, Norway next week to begin training with Storhamar of the GET league.” Rantanen reportedly intends to keep his options open if a new contract with the Avalanche isn’t in place when training camp opens next month. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston believes a new contract with the Avs isn’t far off.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The site reports Rantanen is believed seeking an annual average value in the range of $10 million. There’s also speculation he could get a four-year deal worth around $9 million per season. We’ll find out soon enough when Rantanen is signed and for how much for how long.
TSN: cites The Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger reporting Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski seeks a three-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit around $5 million.
Hedger also said he’s heard Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Ivan Provorov’s camp has asked for $10 million per season, likely on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Werenski probably thinks he’s not going to get more than Seth Jones’ $5.4 million AAV as Jones is a better all-around rearguard. As for Provorov, I’ll be stunned if the Flyers pay him $10 million annually. He’s a talented defenseman yet to reach his full potential but he’s not worth that much.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes are still awaiting word from winger Justin Williams if he’ll return for another season. GM Don Waddell said he doesn’t want to set a deadline for Williams to reach a decision but noted time is getting short. Williams, meanwhile, is visiting family in Northern Ontario and has “nothing to report.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wouldn’t surprise me if Williams makes his decision following the Labor Day weekend.
TSN: Former Washington Capitals winger Dmitrij Jaskin is expected to sign with the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo.
SPORTING NEWS: Mark Pavelich, a member of the 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team and a former NHL player, was arrested Monday for reportedly attacking a neighbor with a metal pole following a fishing trip.
The charges include “second- and third-degree assault, possession of an illegal shotgun and possessing a gun with a scratched off serial number.” Pavelich was ordered by a Minnesota judge to undergo a mental evaluation before standing trial.