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 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. 

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 14, 2019

Latest on the Rangers, Islanders, and Sharks in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup. 


NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks is not so sure the Rangers can reach a contract agreement with Jacob Trouba before the defenseman’s arbitration hearing on July 25. He still expects Trouba and the Rangers will eventually hammer out a seven-year, bonus-heavy deal worth between $7.5 million to $7.8 million per season. However, the longer things drag out, Brooks suggests the blueliner could turn this into a nine-year committment.

Can the New York Rangers avoid a salary-arbitration hearing with Jacob Trouba? (Photo via NHL Images)

Brooks envisions Trouba opting for a one-year deal via arbitration and then signing an eight-year extension late in the season or before next July. Going that route could make Trouba’s tenure on Broadway a short one, as there’s no guarantee general manager Jeff Gorton wouldn’t flip him to another club before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both sides apparently continue to have cordial contract discussions They could reach an agreement on a new contract before then. However, the longer this drags on, the more questions will arise over Trouba’s future in New York as his arbitraiton hearing looms. 


NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis briefly mentioned the possibility of the New York Islanders trading defenseman Nick Leddy before training camp. However, he doesn’t expect Leddy will fetch an impact player he feels the Isles need to contend next season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy’s frequently popped up in the rumor mill since May. While he could be traded come September, I agree with Cyrgalis that the Isles won’t get an impact player in return. 

It’s been a weird off-season for the Isles. On the plus side, they re-signed Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle. On the down side, they let goaltender Robin Lehner (their MVP last season) depart via free agency. His replacement is an inconsistent, brittle veteran in Semyon Varlamov, considered a mentor to promising Ilya Sorokin whenever he’s ready to leave the KHL. They also lost a major bidding war for Artemi Panarin, leading some observers to suggest the winger merely used the Isles to leverage a massive new contract with the Rangers. 


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz was asked if the San Jose Sharks will pursue another top-nine winger via free agency. That question came following their surprisingly cheap re-signing (one-year, $1 million) of winger Kevin Labanc. Depending on the cost of bringing back Joe Thornton, Kurz doubts the Sharks can afford to chase the remaining UFA wingers unless they’re willing to ink a low-cost one-year deal. Otherwise, the Sharks would have to shed salary via trade. 

Kurz doesn’t rule out a possible return of Patrick Marleau. However, if the 40-year-old winger expects more than a one-year, $1 million contract, Kurz thinks GM Doug Wilson could seek other options. Asked about the trade status of goalie Aaron Dell, his $1.9-million cap hit probably isn’t easy to move after coming off a rough season.  Kurz also downplays trade rumors regarding winger Melker Karlsson, considering him a valuable depth player.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks also noted Labanc’s new contract. “We trust the NHL will keep a close eye on this when — that should be, if — he signs a multi-year extension soon after he is eligible to do so on Jan. 1.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: More than a few eyebrows shot up last week after Labanc, coming off a 56-point season, agreed to a one-year deal worth well below market value. The league hasn’t stepped in to void the contract so we must assume they’re fine with it. But as Brooks suggests, if he signs a lucrative new deal early in the new year, that one-year contract could be construed as salary-cap circumvention.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson, however, seems too shrewd to fall into that trap. It wouldn’t surprise me if he and the Labanc camp have a “handshake agreement” ensuring the winger gets a hefty pay raise on his next deal.

Labanc will be a restricted free agent next July 1. If he and the Sharks wait until then to sign that next contract, I believe there’s nothing legally the league can do about it under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement. It’ll be interesting to see if this type of maneuver is addressed in the next CBA. 

NHL Rumor Mill – July 13, 2019

The Blue Jackets reportedly looked into signing Mitch Marner to an offer sheet. The details plus the latest on the Canadiens, Blackhawks, and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.


TSN: cited a tweet by The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reporting the Columbus Blue Jackets were among “many teams” that spoke to Mitch Marner about an offer sheet. The Maple Leafs winger is a restricted free agent but Portzline said he’s seen no indication he wants to leave Toronto. He’s also convinced the Leafs would match any offer, “perhaps by trading (William) Nylander.”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman said he also believes the Columbus Blue Jackets were thinking about signing Marner to an offer sheet. This came after a report a week ago by a Sportsnet colleague claiming everyone was talking about the New York Islanders pursuing the winger. Friedman believes term was the sticking point, with the Jackets preferring seven years and Marner less than that. He added sources told him if anyone was going to pursue Marner with an offer sheet, it was the Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Blue Jackets reportedly had interest in signing Mitch Marner to an offer sheet (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Around and around we go in what’s become “The Summer of Marner.” Last week, it was the Islanders supposedly poised to sign him despite carrying insufficient cap space to pull it off. Now, it’s the Blue Jackets. Some pundits even wondered if the Montreal Canadiens, fresh off their failed attempt to sign Sebastian Aho away from the Carolina Hurricanes, might make a pitch. Wonder what team will be linked to Marner next week? 

Yes, a rival club could sign Marner to a expensive short-term offer sheet too expensive for the cap-strapped Leafs to match. Perhaps they could be forced to trade Nylander to free up the dollars to match. The longer this goes on, however, the less likely that scenario seems to be. 

I don’t doubt the Blue Jackets looked into it. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $15 million in cap space and need something to significantly bolster their offense after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel to free agency.

However, restricted free agent defenseman Zach Werenski is due a substantial raise that would eat up a big chunk of that cap room. And no, they’re not going to ink him to a short-term bridge deal when defense partner Seth Jones is pulling down $5.4 million per season. So I don’t see how Marner’s a fit there.

As I noted earlier this week, only a handful of teams – the Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, and Minnesota Wild – have enough cap space to make a competitive offer for Marner.

Some, like the Jackets, Avalanche, Fyers, and Jets, have significant restricted free agents of their own to re-sign, cutting deeply into their cap space. The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues are more interested in keeping as much of their roster intact as possible. The Wild, meanwhile, don’t strike me as a club with serious interest in going the offer sheet route. 


LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider, and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere are among seven suggested trade targets for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. Others include Vegas Golden Knights forward Nikita Gusev, New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie, and Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The piece acknowledged pursuing Laine via trade or offer sheet was a pipe dream. I daresay it was included simply because some observers wondered if Bergevin would try his luck again after failing to land Aho.

Kreider could become a cost-cutting candidate by the Rangers. There’s also the risk he’ll depart next summer via free agency. Trade rumors last month linked the Habs to Gostisbehere, Leddy and Brodie. The Canadiens need another good left-side blueliner so perhaps there’s a deal to be made with one of those teams.

Gusev reportedly seeks a two-year deal worth $4 million annually, which might explain why he hasn’t been traded yet. Puljujarvi is a reclamation project at this point. Still, the Oilers will want a decent return. 

TVA SPORTS: suggested Bergevin should target some of the few available Quebec-born players still available in the UFA market. They include forwards Jason Pominville, Derick Brassard, and Gabriel Bourque. A report out of Edmonton earlier this week claimed Brassard sought $4 million per season, which he denied on Friday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather than target one of the few remaining Quebeckers, all of whom are past their playing primes, how about pursuing the best available and affordable talent that might actually improve the roster? Just throwin’ that out there. I don’t presume to know Bergevin’s intentions for the remainder of the offseason. Signing a fading veteran merely to add another Quebecker to the roster doesn’t appear to be a front-burner issue. 


NBC SPORTS: In the wake of the Boston Bruins signing Danton Heinen earlier this week, Joe Haggerty notes they’ll have to shed salary to re-sign defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. The Bruins now have around $8 million in cap space.

Haggerty believes it could cost around $10 million to re-sign the two young blueliners. He suggests shopping a sidelined blueliner like Kevan Miller ($2.5 million AAV) or John Moore ($2.75 million) once they become healthy enough to play. In the meantime, the Bruins could one of them on LTIR to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A rival club could also squeeze the Bruins by insisting on a draft pick, a prospect, or a young NHL-ready player be included in the deal. It’ll depend, of course, on how much it costs to re-sign McAvoy and Carlo. 


NHL Rumor Mill – July 12, 2019

A list of five potential summer trade candidates plus updates on Loui Eriksson and Julius Honka in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker and New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider are among five players Jared Clinton believes could be summer trade targets. Calgary Flames defensemen Travis Hamonic or Michael Stone could also be shopped, as well as Vancouver Canucks winger Loui Eriksson and Vegas Golden Knights forward Nikita Gusev. 

Could the Minnesota Wild trade Jason Zucker before the start of next season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Given the Wild’s two previous attempts to trade Zucker this year, Clinton doubts they’re done trying to move him. Limited salary-cap space explains why Kreider, Erikkson, Hamonic and Stone are on this list.

The Golden Knights are reportedly shopping Gusev as they cannot afford to re-sign him. Clinton’s colleague Steven Ellis suggested the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets as potential destinations. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Zucker trade chatter has cooled since a deal that would’ve sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in late-May fell through. There’s some speculation Wild general manager Paul Fenton isn’t as keen to move Zucker as he once was. However, one can’t dismiss the possibility of a trade before next season begins.

The asking price for Gusev is said to be a second-round pick and either a later-round pick or a prospect. Getting a potential scorer for that low price has some observers wondering why he hasn’t been traded yet. I’m guessing it’s his demand for a two-yearl deal worth $4 million annually. A lot of teams have used up their cap space for this summer or face significant re-signings next summer.

Kreider’s future with the Rangers could depend on how much they spend to re-sign defenseman Jacob Trouba. The Blueshirts have around $8 million in cap space and Trouba’s new contract could eat up most of that cap space. That won’t leave much to re-sign restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux, and Anthony DeAngelo. 

Hamonic’s or Stone’s futures in Calgary depend upon the cost of re-signing power forward Matthew Tkachuk. The Flames must also re-sign Sam Bennett and David Rittich, who have arbitration hearings coming up.

As for Loui Eriksson…


TSN: Agent J.P. Barry, who represents Canucks winger Loui Eriksson, said his client’s future in Vancouver remains uncertain. They met last month with Canucks GM Jim Benning, discussing Eriksson’s comments about friction with head coach Travis Green and what’s next for the winger. While Barry downplayed Eriksson’s remarks, he admitted both sides have looked into trade options. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks must shed salary to free up cap space to re-sign Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin. Trading away Eriksson and his $6-million AAV is the best option but also the most difficult. He’s 33, his performance is in decline, and he’s signed through 2021-22.

Eriksson’s got a no-trade clause but I daresay he’ll waive it to go to any NHL city at this point. Nevertheless, those other factors account for why the Canucks are having difficulty drumming up interest in him. 


SPORTSDAY: Matthew DeFranks reports the Dallas Stars are trying to trade defenseman Julius Honka. With their addition of Andrej Sekera, the Stars have a glut on the blueline.

Honka, a first-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, has struggled to crack the Stars’ lineup. He was a healthy scratch for the final 35 games of the regular season and all 13 postseason contests. DeFranks speculates Honka’s value could rise as teams with limited cap space seek a young, affordable blueliner. 

NHL Rumor Mill – July 11, 2019

The Canucks and Sabres could have more moves in store, plus an update on Nikita Gusev in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


THE BUFFALO NEWS:  After the Sabres shipped Alexander Nylander to Chicago for Henri Jokiharju, Mike Harrington believes general manager Jason Botterill could have a bigger move in store. He speculates it could involve defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who’s been a frequent subject of media trade chatter. Harrington suggests it could even be a multi-player deal. 

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also believes the Sabres aren’t done dealing this summer. Given their depth on defense, Botterill could peddle Ristolainen for a top-six forward. One rumored suggestion is dangling him to the Winnipeg Jets for winger Nikolaj Ehlers, or perhaps a package of young forward Jack Roslovic and veteran Mathieu Perreault. O’Brien also wondered if the Edmonton Oilers would be open to a Ristolainen-for-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins swap. 

Are the Buffalo Sabres setting the table for a Rasmus Ristolainen trade? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill seems to be setting the table for a bigger move involving Ristolainen. Whether that goes down this summer or during the regular season remains to be seen.

Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got nine defensemen. Jokiharju is listed as a non-roster defenseman but it’s safe to assume he’ll be part of their lineup when the season begins. Zach Bogosian could miss the start of the season recovering from surgery, but I doubt that’ll prevent Botterill from pulling the trigger on the right deal. 

Ehlers for Ristolainen could be a good move for the Jets. He’d replace the departed Jacob Trouba and his cap hit is cheaper than Ehlers. So far, however, there’s no indication out of Winnipeg that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is shopping Ehlers or seeking a replacement for Trouba.

Nugent-Hopkins has frequently popped up in Oilers trade conjecture for several years. However, I don’t think GM Ken Holland intends to move him. While it would bolster Edmonton’s defense it would hurt their scoring depth.


VANCOUVER SUN: Patrick Johnston reports the Vancouver Canucks signing Micheal Ferland yesterday leaves them pressed for salary-cap space. Forwards Brock Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are restricted free agents in need of new contracts. Johnston suggests center Brandon Sutter or winger Loui Eriksson could become trade candidates. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton also believes the Canucks face a cost-cutting move after signing Ferland. They have around $5.1 million in salary-cap space. Unless Boeser accepts “an extraordinarily team-friendly bridge deal,” they’ll have to clear sufficient cap room for his new contract.

Clinton considers Eriksson the best choice but his $6-million annual average value could be difficult to move. Defenseman Chris Tanev has frequently surfaced in trade speculation but Clinton feels moving him could weaken their playoff chances next season. He also suggests Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, or Tanner Pearson as possible trade options. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt Boeser will be taking any team-friendly bridge deals. As one of the Canucks’ top forwards he’ll want to be paid as such. Even if Canucks GM Jim Benning can get him signed to around $5 million it’ll leave them no wiggle room to sign Goldobin or to make other moves during the regular season. I believe Benning will try to ship out a salaried player to make room for Boeser’s new contract.

Eriksson would be the best choice but that’s not going to be easy at this point in the offseason. There are clubs with sufficient cap room to take his contract off the Canucks’ hands but the remaining three years on his deal could be a deal breaker. Even including a sweetener won’t be enough unless the Canucks agree to pick up a big chunk of that cap hit.

Sutter’s popped up in recent trade speculation but he’s also a tough sell. Whlle his cap hit is lower ($4.375 million) and the term one year shorter than Eriksson’s, his injury history is cause for concern. Tanev ($4.45 million) is a UFA next summer and he’s also dealt with injuries in recent years. The pair also carry modified no-trade clauses. So does Beagle, who’s signed through 2021-22.

Roussel, meanwhile, is out until December recovering from knee surgery. Pearson netted nine goals and 12 points in 19 games after being acquired from Pittsburgh last season. Benning could be reluctant to part with him. 


THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger recently reported sources claim the Vegas Golden Knights seek a second-round draft pick and either a later-round pick or a lower-tier prospect for winger Nikita Gusev. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights are pressed for salary-cap space. They’re reportedly offering Gusev a two-year deal worth $2 million annually while the winger’s camp seeks $4 million. HIs asking price could explain why Vegas hasn’t moved him yet.