NHL Rumor Mill – August 19, 2019

The latest on Taylor Hall and Jake Gardiner in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck wonders if the New Jersey Devils’ busy off-season will entice Taylor Hall to stay beyond this season. The 27-year-old left wing is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Billeck cited a June report by The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta suggesting Hall had no interest in re-signing with the Devils.

Will Taylor Hall re-sign with the New Jersey Devils? (Photo via NHL Images)

Since then, the Devils selected promising center Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, traded for superstar defenseman P.K. Subban, signed winger Wayne Simmonds, and dealt for promising forward Nikita Gusev. It remains to be seen, however, if those moves convince Hall to stay.

Billeck also suggested general manager Ray Shero might not be done tinkering. The Devils have roughly $8 million in salary-cap space. Billeck mused over the possibility of signing a UFA such as Pat Maroon or Ben Hutton.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: If Hall decides to test the market next summer, Kurt Leavins pondered the possibility of a return to the Edmonton Oilers. He points out the people who traded him to New Jersey are gone now.

Leavins said Hall always like playing in Edmonton and has heard the sting from the trade is largely behind him. There’s also the allure of playing alongside Connor McDavid. However, the Oilers would have to shed a significant salary to make the dollars fit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s impending UFA status will hang over him and the Devils throughout this season. The longer he goes unsigned, the more speculation will grow over where he could end up by next July. A healthy season could lead to another MVP-worthy performance, making him perhaps the biggest name in next summer’s free-agent market.

Hall and Shero are playing things cool regarding contract talks. Both sides insist there’s plenty of time to reach a decision. Nevertheless, another poor performance by the Devils could push him into the UFA market. Even if they significantly improve, there’s no guarantee he’ll stay put. The opportunity to earn big bucks and perhaps play for a Cup contender could prove tempting.

As for a Hall reunion with the Oilers, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Sure, it’s possible, but Cap Friendly indicates the Oilers have over $57 million invested in just 10 players for 2020-21. That won’t be enough to sign Hall to a deal worth over $10 million annually. While Hall may have enjoyed playing in Edmonton, I think he’ll look elsewhere if he tests the market.


TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports former Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner declines to comment about his current status.

“Whatever is happening with the undeclared free agent Jake Gardiner, he’s not saying. He’s not commenting. He won’t even take a question. He did, however, ask how my summer was going when we spoke. So there is that.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gardiner’s ongoing availability in the UFA market sparked speculation he’s got a “handshake agreement” with a club before training camps open in mid-September. Some believe he’s hoping to return to the Leafs once they get Mitch Marner under contract.

That seems like a long shot, though Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has proven capable this summer of freeing up sufficient cap space to address his roster’s needs. Regardless, I expect Gardiner will be under contract with an NHL club before training camp ends.

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 18, 2019

Updates on Patrik Laine and Rasmus Ristolainen in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.


SPORTSNET: Sean Reynolds believes Patrik Laine’s recent remarks regarding his contract status serves as a reminder of the Winnipeg Jets’ vulnerability as a small-market club. The 21-year-old restricted free agent winger last week described contract talks as nonexistent, adding he didn’t know where he’d be playing this season and was prepared for anything.

Could Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine receive an offer sheet? (Photo via NHL Images)

Reynolds points out the Jets hold the leverage and control where Laine plays. He also suggested the winger’s remarks could be an attempt to get contract negotiations moving forward. Nevertheless, Reynolds feels “time, money, and circumstance are all working against the Jets.”

Unlike teammate Kyle Connor, there’s no confirmation if Laine has been contacted by rival clubs hoping to sign him to an offer sheet. However, Reynolds suggests the young Finn’s comments indicate he “at the very least understands that he is prepared, if not open, to a hockey future outside of Winnipeg.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An offer sheet is always possible but the best opportunity for that was late June or early July when teams had more salary-cap space and willingness to spend it. I believe it would take an offer sheet worth over $9 million annually to tempt Laine.

Cap Friendly indicates only six teams have the cap space to make that pitch. Three of them (Colorado, Columbus, Tampa Bay) have RFA talent of their own (Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Brayden Point) to re-sign. That leaves the Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators, and Philadelphia Flyers.

The Wild is undergoing a management change and unlikely to go the offer-sheet route. The rebuilding Senators probably won’t interest Laine while the Flyers must re-sign Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.

If another club wants to offer-sheet Laine, they’ll have to shed salary or do some creative accounting. Regardless, it would be a pointless exercise. The Jets have over $17 million in salary-cap space and can match an offer sheet for Laine.


THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports Sabres general manager Jason Botterill still plans on having Risto Ristolainen on his team when training camp opens next month. The 25-year-old defenseman raised eyebrows during a recent interview in Finland by implying it might be better if he were traded.

Botterill said he wasn’t disappointed or surprised by Ristolainen’s remarks. He continues to interact with the blueliner but is keeping those discussions private.

Ristolainen has three years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.4 million. While the Sabres sit over $1 million above the $81.5-million salary cap, Harrington said they can find other ways to become cap compliant other than moving Ristolainen. He also noted the Sabres are overloaded on right defense and require depth at forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Botterill isn’t  exactly smacking down the Ristolainen trade speculation. He may be looking ahead at having the blueliner on the roster when training camp opens, but he’s also not dismissing the notion that the d-man could be traded before camp opens.

Ristolainen could be shopped for a top-six winger before training camp. However, I think Botterill won’t move unless he gets the right return. It could take until next summer to find it.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2019

An update on Patrik Laine plus the latest on the Penguins in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Patrik Laine said contract talks with the Winnipeg Jets have been non-existent this summer and he isn’t sure what that means for his future with the club. The 21-year-old left-winger is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

No progress yet in contract talks between the Winnipeg Jets and Patrik Laine (Photo via NHL Images).

Laine said he’s unconcerned about the situation, noting he’ll be playing somewhere this season. “Well, you never know. It’s still business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” Laine said. “But yeah, you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything.” He also said he’s got nothing bad to say about Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck also reported on Laine’s comments. He pointed out the young Finn is among several big-ticket RFAs this summer, including teammate Kyle Connor. Billeck notes the Jets have over $17 million in salary-cap space with 17 players signed for next season. The impasse with Laine and Connor hasn’t helped them bolster their depth.

Billeck feels the Jets must avoid a lengthy standoff like the one the Toronto Maple Leafs had last season with William Nylander. The decline in Laine’s production last season and a lingering back issue could factor into the negotiations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s not the only RFA this summer who’s had little or no contract discussions with their respective teams. A report emerged earlier this week indicating Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic last spoke with Mikko Rantanen’s agent two months ago.

I don’t think a lack of talks between Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Laine camp is anything to be concerned about right now. The time to worry is if there’s no progress as training camp approaches.

For now, fans should avoid reading too much into this. It’s an unusual summer, with several noteworthy young RFA stars still unsigned. It seems like everyone is waiting to see who gets signed first. It’s also mid-August, a time of little significant player movement or signings.

Once the calendar turns to September, I anticipate we’ll see negotiations heat up for Laine, Connor and the other RFAs. And no, I don’t believe this means the Jets could shop Laine. There’s always a possibility he could be traded for the right offer, but I don’t believe any team can come up with one suitable enough to tempt Cheveldayoff.

I expect the Jets will re-sign Laine and Connor. For how much and for how long is anyone’s guess, but they will get signed. And if they need to free up cap space afterward to fill out the remainder of the roster, they could move someone like Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million annual average value) or Mathieu Perreault ($4.125 million).


TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie recently wondered if Justin Schultz has a future with the Pittsburgh Penguins beyond this season. The 29-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Penguins will face another salary-cap crunch next summer as they’ll also have to re-sign Matt Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, and Jared McCann, among others. If the club struggles this season, Bombulie predicts Schultz could be shopped before the trade deadline.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Wingers Valeri Nichushkin and Drew Stafford top Dan Kingerski’s list of potential professional tryout candidates for the Penguins. Others include defenseman Michael Stone, winger Tobias Rieder, and blueliner Ben Lovejoy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins must shed salary once Marcus Pettersson is re-signed. They probably won’t look at PTO candidates until after that’s sorted.

GM Jim Rutherford could peddle Schultz but I expect he’ll retain the rearguard for one more shot at a Stanley Cup run this season. I concur with Bombulie that he would be a late-season move if the Pens struggle to stay in playoff contention.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 16, 2019

Updates on the Kings and Oilers in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck recently examined possible options for Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake to rebuild his roster. Several players, including Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, and Derek Forbort, will be seeking new contracts next season and it’s unlikely they’ll get them in Los Angeles. Billeck suggests those players could be shipped out at the trade deadline for assets.

James O’Brien believes goaltender Jonathan Quick’s trade window will be after this season. He feels teams will find Quick’s $5.8 million annual average value more palatable because his actual salary steadily declines to $3.5 million in 2020-21, $3 million in 2021-22, and $2.5 million in 2022-23.

Could this season be Jonathan Quick’s last with the Los Angeles Kings? (Photo via NHL Images)

O’Brien suggests Toffoli and defenseman Alec Martinez would attract plenty of interest in the trade market. The big contracts of Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Dustin Brown make them unlikely to be moved this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake could take a “wait-and-see” approach to allow new head coach Todd McLellan a chance to turn things around this season. If Quick stays healthy and returns to form, if Kovalchuk regains his scoring touch, and if players in their contract years (like Toffoli) have strong performances, the Kings could sneak into the playoffs next spring.

But if the Kings remain outside the postseason picture, Blake could start shipping out some veterans for younger assets by the February trade deadline.

The decline in Quick’s actual salary in the final three years of his contract won’t matter if he has another injury-shortened campaign. Toffoli will certainly draw interest as a rental player. With a year left on his contract, Martinez will be enticing to clubs seeking blueline depth beyond this season. 


NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz notes the same old questions remain for the Edmonton Oilers entering this season. He points to the lack of scoring punch beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the still-thin defense, and questionable goaltending in Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith.

Gretz believes it’s only a matter of time until unhappy winger Jesse Puljujarvi is traded. He also wonders if forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or defenseman Oscar Klefbom hit the trade block this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Since taking over as general manager this spring, Ken Holland earned positive marks for his moves thus far. That includes shipping fading power forward Milan Lucic to Calgary for less expensive winger James Neal.

Nevertheless, Gretz makes valid points about the Oilers’ ongoing problem areas. If there’s no significant improvement this season, Nugent-Hopkins or Klefbom could resurface in the rumor mill.

Puljujarvi could also be moved, provided Holland gets a decent return. Otherwise, Holland could call the youngster’s bluff, let him play in Finland this season, and revisit contract discussions or the trade market next summer.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 15, 2019

The latest on the Sharks, Flames and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz expects Joe Thornton will return for another season with the San Jose Sharks. The delay in signing the 40-year-old center could be because the Sharks haven’t finished shaping their roster for the upcoming season. They still need depth at right wing and perhaps a more reliable backup goaltender.

Will the San Jose Sharks bring back Patrick Marleau? (Photo via NHL Images)

Kurz is less assured about a possible reunion with Patrick Marleau. The former Shark agreed in June to be traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Carolina Hurricanes, who bought out the final year of his contract.

Kurz believes there’s isn’t a “handshake-type agreement” between the Sharks and Marleau as there is with Thornton. Marleau isn’t a right winger and general manager Doug Wilson doesn’t like to add veteran players who would take away playing time from younger ones.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $4 million in salary-cap room, the Sharks have enough to bring back Thornton and Marleau on affordable one-year, bonus-heavy contracts.

Thornton’s return is assured. If Wilson finds a younger, cost-effective right wing via trade or free agency, that’ll put an end to any talk of a Marleau reunion.


SPORTSNET: Eric Francis reports Juuso Valimaki’s knee injury changes Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving’s plans for T.J. Brodie. Treliving was shopping Brodie and nearly shipped the defenseman to Toronto for center Nazem Kadri but the latter refused to waive his no-trade clause. Kadri was later traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

With Treliving now seeking a replacement for Valimaki, Francis considers it likely “trade talk involving Brodie will now cease.” He expects Oliver Kylington should easily slide in Valimaki’s spot on the Flames blueline. Instead of moving Brodie to free up salary-cap space to re-sign Matthew Tkachuk, the focus could instead shift to trading winger Michael Frolik ($4.3 million).

THE HOCKEY NEWS: If Treliving opts to shop around for blueline depth, Jared Clinton suggests unrestricted free agents such as Ben Hutton or Joe Morrow. He also proposed contacting the St. Louis Blues about Joel Edmundson or Carl Gunnarsson, or shipping Frolik to the Los Angeles Kings for Derek Forbort.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Failing to trade Brodie this summer may be a blessing in disguise following Valimaki’s injury. Treliving doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a suitable replacement. If he seeks a more experienced and affordable option, he shouldn’t encounter much difficulty finding one via trade or free agency. He could also wait until after training camp or pre-season play to go that route.


THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan recently reported changes will be ongoing this season for the Red Wings defense corps. They’re waiting to see if veteran Niklas Kronwall will return or retire. Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, and Mike Green are all a year away from unrestricted free agent status. Kulfan doubts they have a future with the Wings. If they stay healthy, he expects they’ll likely be moved by the trade deadline if the Wings are out of playoff contention by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings blueline was a work in progress before Steve Yzerman took over this spring as general manager. That work will continue throughout this season and into next summer. Don’t expect the Wings to get much back in return for Daley, Ericsson, or Green.

NHL Rumor Mill – August 14, 2019

The latest on Braden Holtby, Torey Krug, and David Krejci in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently listed six reasons why Capitals fans shouldn’t expect Braden Holtby to accept a hometown discount. The 29-year-old goaltender is eligible for UFA status next summer and in line for a big raise over his current $6.1-million AAV.

This season could be Braden Holtby’s last with the Washington Capitals (Photo via NHL Images).

Regan cites Sergei Bobrovsky as a comparable. The former Columbus Blue Jackets goalie signed a seven-year, $70-million deal in July with the Florida Panthers. He also reminds us Holtby filed for arbitration in 2015 before he and the Capitals agreed to his current deal. Accepting a lesser deal probably wouldn’t sit well with the NHLPA.

Holtby will likely want a no-movement clause to ensure he’s not left unprotected in the 2021 expansion draft. His next contract will also be his last big deal plus it is also human nature to seek the best deal he can get.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $62 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Long-time Caps center Nicklas Backstrom is also slated to become a UFA next summer.

Unless the Caps shed salary, they cannot afford to re-sign both to hefty raises and still have enough to suitably fill out the rest of the roster. They must also keep an eye on 2021, when team captain and franchise player Alex Ovechkin will be eligible for UFA status.

Talking to Capitals fans (especially my friends on the Face Off Hockey Show), they seem resigned to this season being Holtby’s last in Washington. They could trade him this season but I don’t see that happening unless the Capitals fall out of playoff contention by the trade deadline.


NBC SPORTS BOSTON: With the Boston Bruins pressed for salary-cap space, Joe Haggerty recently observed Torey Krug’s been the subject of trade speculation. The 28-year-old is coming off a tremendous post-season where he was the Bruins best defenseman. He’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent status and is due for a significant raise over his current $5.25-million salary-cap hit.

Haggerty wondered if Krug might be traded should a deal emerge that would fetch the Bruins a top-six winger. Moving him now, however, would leave a big hole on their blueline that would be difficult to fill for a club with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Haggerty also noted David Krejci popped up in trade speculation. The 33-year-old center carries a team-high $7.25-million annual average value and his no-movement clause recently became a modified no-trade.

While Krejci’s trade value will never be higher after a 73-point performance last season, moving him now would leave a big gap in the second-line center position. Haggerty cited Bruins president Cam Neely recently sang Krejci’s praises.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An early exit from the 2019 playoffs might have prompted Bruins management to shake things up a bit by shopping Krug or Krejci. But having come within one game of winning the Stanley Cup, they’ll keep their core intact for another shot at the Cup this season. 

They could face shedding some salary if re-signing Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo exceeds their current cap space ($7.2 million). Don’t expect Krug or Krejci to be cost-cutting casualties.