NHL Rumor Mill – November 13, 2019

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.


Are the Los Angeles Kings trying to move Ilya Kovalchuk? (Photo via NHL Images)

  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.



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.


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.


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.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 12, 2019

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.


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.

Alec Martinez could be the LA Kings’ best trade chip this season (Photo via NHL Images).

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.


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.


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.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 11, 2019

Could the Bruins pursue Tyler Toffoli or Kevin Fiala? Should the Senators trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau? Should the Leafs shop for a backup goalie? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.


BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently reported the Boston Bruins are doing due diligence on Tyler Toffoli and other members of the Los Angeles Kings. Murphy cites an NHL source claiming the Bruins’ interest in Toffoli is exploratory at this point as they attempt to determine the asking price for the 27-year-old winger.

Is Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli on the Boston Bruins’ radar? (Photo via NHL Images)

Murphy also claims another NHL source said Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin is receiving plenty of interest in Kevin Fiala. The 23-year-old winger is earning $3 million annually on a two-year contract. He’s been a healthy scratch on more than one occasion. The source noted the Bruins looked at Fiala during his days with the Nashville Predators but couldn’t say if they’re revisiting that interest.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins GM Don Sweeney isn’t in any hurry to make a move with his club off to a strong start. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if he’s keeping an eye on the trade market for a second-line winger. That move could come in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. That’s usually when he makes his biggest in-season deal. He acquired Rick Nash near the 2018 deadline and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson last February.

Toffoli would provide more immediate help to the Bruins. Fiala is younger, has offensive potential and would be more affordable to acquire. Toffoli, however, is a better two-way player with Stanley Cup experience. 


THE ATHLETIC: Graeme Nichols recently made the case for the Ottawa Senators to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He notes the winger turns 27 today and his prime years are winding down. His strong play thus far this season would make him enticing to playoff contenders.

The Senators have also built up depth at the center position and won’t have room for everyone. If Colin White’s defensive game continues to improve it could give the Senators the flexibility to cash in on Pageau’s value now.

Nichols acknowledged there is a risk to trading Pageau for draft picks. He cites their moves during the 2011 trade deadline in which the two additional first-rounders they received failed to pan out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pageau’s future in Ottawa could depend upon his willingness to stay with the rebuilding Senators and if they see him as part of their long-term plans. His asking price could also be a factor.


TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes goaltending is an issue for the Maple Leafs as backup Michael Hutchinson continues to struggle in the early going. Hutchinson allowed three goals on the first six shots in last night’s 5-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Koshan believes few would blame the Leafs if they called up Kasimir Kaskisuo from the Toronto Marlies.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hutchinson is 0-4-1 this season with a bloated 4.44 goals-against average and a lousy .879 save percentage. If GM Kyle Dubas is reluctant to call up Kaskisuo, he could be forced into the trade market at some point in the season.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 10, 2019

The latest Taylor Hall speculation plus an update on Jason Spezza in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman considers it unlikely the New Jersey Devils will get Taylor Hall re-signed during this season. While the two sides met recently in Calgary, Hall’s agent Darren Ferris has a history of telling his clients to wait until as late as possible to determine their true market value. Friedman feels it’s up to Devils general manager Ray Shero to decide on his club’s course of action.

It’s looking unlikely Taylor Hall will re-sign with the New Jersey Devils during this season (Photo via NHL Images).

Friedman’s colleague Rory Boylen recently listed eight NHL teams that Hall could conceivably sign with by next July. The Devils are on that list but Boylen suggests their slow start could jeopardize their chances of re-signing him.

Boyle believes the Colorado Avalanche have the salary-cap space to sign Hall to a big contract. He also included Hall’s former club, the Edmonton Oilers, on this list but considers his return to Edmonton a long shot. He also wonders if the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, and Pittsburgh Penguins could be landing spots for Hall.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater examined the pros and cons of the Avalanche acquiring Hall near the trade deadline as a playoff rental. Acquiring him could be expensive. Dater speculates the asking price could be “Tyson Jost/J.T. Compher/Nikita Zadorov/all of the above, plus a first-round-pick and maybe another pick.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s name will remain a fixture in this season’s rumor mill if his camp is determined to wait until June to evaluate his free-agent value. Money won’t be an issue for the Devils. With over $57 million invested in 14 players, they can afford to re-sign Hall to an expensive new contract. I believe it boils down to whether he believes the Devils will provide him the best chance to play for a Stanley Cup contender. In the short term, there’s no indication they’re heading in that direction.

Hall’s only made one postseason appearance in his career. Approaching his 28th birthday, he’s at the stage in his career where he might be unwilling to wait on a rebuilding team for that opportunity.

Shero will set a high asking price if he shops Hall before the trade deadline. Interested parties will attempt to wait him out in hopes he’ll drop that price as the deadline nears.

The Avalanche could express interest but it’ll depend upon where they are in the standings and how long top-line forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog remain sidelined. They do have the cap space to re-sign him but must consider how that could affect efforts to re-sign some key players within the next two or three seasons.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the Toronto Maple Leafs have to clear a roster spot to activate Zach Hyman this week. It appears center Jason Spezza could be the odd man out.

Spezza’s missed three straight games as a healthy scratch (nine overall so far this season). Johnston said Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and coach Mike Babcock have had a constant dialogue with the veteran center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston also suggested that situation could change if Mitch Marner is sidelined for any length of time. Marner left last night’s game against Philadelphia with an apparent ankle injury. No word yet as to his status. If Marner is ok, the Leafs could place Spezza on waivers or attempt to trade him.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 9, 2019

The latest on the Blues, Leafs, and Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.


STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat with his readers, Tim Timmermann was asked if the St. Louis Blues could target New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider as a short-term replacement for sidelined winger Vladimir Tarasenko. While acknowledging the 28-year-old Kreider would make a lot of sense, Timmermann doesn’t see the Blues targeting a “big-name, big-salary guy” if there’s any chance Tarasenko could return before season’s end. He cites their limited salary-cap space as a factor.

Could New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider become a trade option for the St. Louis Blues? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sitting atop the Western Conference standings, the Blues aren’t under any pressure to swing a deal. They’ll attempt to offset Tarasenko’s absence from within.

Should they start struggling by midseason and appear in danger of falling out of playoff contention, GM Doug Armstrong could get busy in the trade market. Kreider might interest him but the Rangers could seek a first-round pick and either a top prospect or NHL-ready youngers in return. Kreider’s also a left winger while Tarasenko is a right wing.


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, James Mirtle was asked if he sees a player among the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top-nine forwards or top-four defensemen getting moved at the trade deadline. He was also asked how the Leafs could swing a trade for a better defense partner for Morgan Rielly with their limited salary-cap space.

Mirtle feels there’s no need to do anything rash. With Travis Dermott back from injury and Zach Hyman’s return imminent, he believes the Leafs will want to evaluate their full team. If a move needs to be made, it could come around late-January at the earliest. That was around the time last season when they acquired Jake Muzzin. Their limited cap space means a significant deal would have to be dollar-in, dollar-out.

Asked if the Leafs could pursue Detroit’s Jimmy Howard to shore up their goaltending depth, Mirtle believes his age (36), contract, and .907 save percentage over the last three seasons works against that possibility. If the Leafs feel they need a better backup they’ll probably explore more affordable options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has proven capable of juggling his limited salary cap to shed bad contracts and bring in players who can help his club. It would be foolish to underestimate him.

Still, it will be challenging to bolster the lineup or address a glaring weakness in-season while bumping up against the cap ceiling. Potential trade partners could ask for cheaper Leafs forwards such as Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson in return.


PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Matt Vengel recently reported Penguins GM Jim Rutherford isn’t working on any trades at present. He garnered some salary-cap relief by shipping Erik Gudbranson last month to the Anaheim Ducks. That leaves him some wiggle room for potential moves near the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Penguins having weathered the absence of several players to injuries, Rutherford will take time to evaluate his roster as it gets healthier. He’s usually among the most active GMs in the trade market during the regular season. I expect he’ll have something up his sleeve as the trade deadline approaches.

NHL Rumor Mill – November 8, 2019

The latest on the Red Wings, Senators, and Maple Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa reports outside sources believe the Detroit Red Wings will be a team with hand raised high for Torey Krug if the Boston Bruins defenseman tests next summer’s free-agent market. The Wings are Krug’s hometown team and he played for Wings coach Jeff Blashill in the USHL. They are also desperate for a power-play quarterback.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan recently reported the Red Wings’ mounting losses is generating speculation about Blashill’s future in Detroit. General manager Steve Yzerman hasn’t commented about his coach’s status. Citing Yzerman’s tenure as Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Kulfan observed he is normally patient and not given to making rash decisions. Despite the Wings’ poor start, the players remain supportive of Blashill.

Could the Detroit Red Wings pursue Torey Krug in next summer’s UFA market? (Photo via NHL Images).

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire told TSN radio Ottawa not to be surprised if Yzerman attempts to shop 2018 first-round pick Filip Zadina. McGuire was critical of the young winger’s play without the puck.

Zadina was drafted by former Wings GM Ken Holland. McGuire thinks it’s fair to say he shouldn’t have been selected as high as he was (sixth overall) in that draft.

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan recently wondered if Yzerman might make a move to improve the Wings’ performance and provide some hope for the fanbase. For now, the plan is to once again unload contracts at the trade deadline for draft picks.

Their rental players (Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Mike Green) won’t have much value. Others signed beyond this season (Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Bernier) will be almost impossible to move.

Khan believes Andreas Athanasiou could be the Wings’ biggest trade chip. He wonders if Yzerman will shop him at the trade deadline or before the 2020 NHL Draft for an additional first-round draft pick.

As for Blashill, Khan believes Yzerman could stick with him for the rest of the season unless the team completely falls apart. He also think Yzerman will continue to chip away at his roster with value-seeking deals leading up to the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings weren’t expected to be a playoff contender this season but it was hoped they’d show improvement. If these disheartening losses keep piling up, Yzerman could give Blashill the hook.

Yzerman can’t be happy with what he’s seeing right now. Making a significant move to turn things around will be difficult at this point in the season. Rival GMs are likely more interested in young core players like Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha than those carrying expensive or expiring contracts.

If Athanasiou doesn’t pick up his play I can see Yzerman fielding trade offers later in the season. Playing for a deeper club could help the speedy forward regain his spark. I agree with McGuire it wouldn’t be surprising if Zadina was moved. It’s not a certainty but Yzerman could gauge his trade value.

Yzerman could get into the bidding for Krug if he hits the open market next summer. Krug, however, might not be keen to join a rebuilding club. He’ll draw plenty of interest around the league.


TSN: Ian Mendes reports Jean-Gabriel Pageau said he’s had no contract extension discussion lately with the Ottawa Senators. The 26-year-old center is off to the best statistical start of his NHL career. Pageau said he’s focused on his game and hasn’t given much thought to his contract. If he doesn’t fit into the rebuilding Senators plans he could be shopped at the trade deadline.

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren also wonders about Pageau’s future with the Senators. His two-way skills would be attractive to playoff contenders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mendes and Warren believe it’ll come down to how much the Senators are willing to pay and how much Pageau believes his services are worth. Considering the Senators’ current rebuild, they could be unwilling to pony up big bucks for their pending UFA stars. Don’t be surprised if he’s playing elsewhere by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.


TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports the Maple Leafs placed Nic Petan and Martin Marincin on waivers yesterday to free up salary-cap space for Zach Hyman’s return from knee surgery on Saturday. Petan and Marincin will be assigned to the Leafs’ AHL affiliate if they clear waivers at noon ET today.

Once those two are claimed or demoted, the Leafs must take one more salary off the roster. He lists Nick Shore, Jason Spezza, and Dmytro Timashov as prime candidates to be waived or traded. All have salary-cap salaries of around $700,000.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch considers it unlikely the Senators will try to bring Spezza back to Ottawa with a waiver claim. While he’d be a good mentor in the dressing room, the Sens don’t want an aging player taking a roster spot from their younger players.