NHL Rumor Mill – October 12, 2019

Should the Kings consider trading Jonathan Quick? Is Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock feeling the heat in Toronto? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Lisa Dillman and Josh Cooper examined Jonathan Quick’s poor performance in his first two games. The veteran Kings goaltender gave up 14 goals for a league-worst 7.17 goals-against average and .750 save percentage.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick’s poor start has some LA Kings followers calling for a trade (Photo via NHL Images).

Some on social media believe the Kings should trade or demote Quick. Dillman and Cooper believe it won’t be easy shopping a struggling goalie with a big contract and a long history of injuries. Nevertheless, they point out the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers swapped two high-salaried players (James Neal for Milan Lucic) this summer.

NBC analyst Keith Jones suggests that a trade is possible if a rival club has a goalie coach who’s confident they can help Quick regain his once-stellar form.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t dismiss the possibility of the Kings finding a trade partner for Quick but I doubt we’ll see it happening at this stage. His situation could be worth keeping an eye on as this season progresses. I expect the Kings will be patient with Quick but could give more starts to backup Jack Campbell or recall promising Cal Petersen at some point.


TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox wonders if the Maple Leafs’ wobbly play thus far could put head coach Mike Babcock on the hot seat. While Cox notes that Babcock didn’t build the current roster, he’s responsible to make it a winner.

The Leafs invested big bucks in a handful of stars, leaving little salary-cap space to address their defensive issues and goaltending depth. “It’s only Thanksgiving, only five games have been played, yet already there’s a whiff of urgency in the air,” writes Cox.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It hasn’t taken long for some Leafs followers to wonder if it’s too early to fire Babcock. He deserves his share of criticism for his handling of the roster, but it was general manager Kyle Dubas’ responsibility to address the club’s weaknesses. I thought the additions of Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci would shore up the right side of the Leafs blueline. So far, there’s little evidence of improvement.

It’s still very early in the season and the Leafs enter this weekend with a .500 record (2-2-1). There’s plenty of time for this club to improve. But if they’re still playing .500 hockey (or worse) in a month, Babcock will bear the brunt of the blame.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 11, 2019

The latest Bruins and Stars speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.


NBC SPORTS BOSTON: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Haggerty was asked if the Boston Bruins should package defenseman Urho Vaakanainen for a scoring winger. With Zdeno Chara aging, he believes they’ll need Vaakanainen on the left side of their blue line. The young blueliner could be scratching the surface of his ability.

Could the Boston Bruins consider shopping Torey Krug for a scoring winger? (Photo via NHL Images)

Haggerty mused over the possibility of the Bruins evaluating Vaakanainen, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk during this season in consideration of perhaps shopping Torey Krug for a scorer before the trade deadline. The blueliner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Haggerty also speculates the Bruins could find a way to move on from winger Danton Heinen if another young player outperforms him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins general manager Don Sweeney isn’t in any rush to make a big move for a winger. He will take his time evaluating his roster before going that route if necessary before the trade deadline. It could cost them a promising young player to address their secondary scoring but they could get a more affordable option closer to the trade deadline. 

Contract extension talks are reportedly underway with Kruf. Should the rearguard remain unsigned by the trade deadline, I think Sweeney hangs onto him for the playoffs as an “own rental”. 


NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike Heikawas asked if the Dallas Stars need to consider an early trade to address their early-season struggles. He feels they just need more time to see where they’re at. “Unless something disastrous happens, my guess is they wouldn’t even consider a move until after Halloween'” he said.

Asked if they could use their long-term injury reserve space to add a Brian Boyle-type player, Heika replied they might be best served by adding a bigger contract later in the season. He cited as an example their addition of Mats Zuccarello before last season’s trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars are 1-3-1 in their opening five games of this season. Their sputtering start is troubling but they have plenty of time to turn things around. I don’t see them making any significant moves right now.

We know they’re trying to trade defenseman Julius Honka. On his own, however, he’ll only attract at best a middle-round draft pick. Perhaps they can package him with another player if they need to make a bigger move after Halloween. They have until Dec. 1 to sign Honka or trade him to a club that signs him. Otherwise, he’ll be ineligible to play in the NHL for the rest of this season.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 10, 2019

Potential destinations for Jesse Puljujarvi, an update on the Sharks, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell recently explored possible destinations for Jesse Puljujarvi. The restricted free agent winger is playing in Finland awaiting a trade by the Edmonton Oilers.

Will the Edmonton Oilers find a suitable trade partner for Jesse Puljujarvi? (Photo via NHL Images)

Mitchell thinks the St. Louis Blues are the most likely destination, citing their previous trade history as well as Puljujarvi’s potential and his potentially low salary. Mitchell thinks Klim Kostin is the obvious piece heading the other way. If that offer was made and rejected, he doesn’t see the Blues sweetening the pot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers’ previous trade history with the Blues is probably irrelevant with Ken Holland is their general manager. If the Blues were interested in Puljujarvi it’s probably a low priority.

Mitchell observed Anaheim Ducks winger Nick Ritchie was a healthy scratch from a recent game. He could be a fit on the Oilers’ third line. The Carolina Hurricanes were linked to Puljujarvi, with winger Julien Gauthier mentioned as a possible return. Gauthier was demoted to their AHL affiliate to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ritchie played on Oct. 8 against the Detroit Red Wings, scoring the game-winning goal. The Hurricanes recently recalled Gauthier but there’s no indication he’s available. 

Speculation also linked the Tampa Bay Lightning to Puljujarvi. Mitchell suggests prospects Alexander Volkov, Alex Barre-Boulet, or Taylor Raddysh as a possible return. He also wondered if the Winnipeg Jets might be interested. The Oilers could use a center like Jack Roslovic, but the Jets could use him as a trade chip to land a defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning probably isn’t feeling pressure to swing a deal right now. Off-season media chatter suggested reuniting Pujujarvi with former Finnish linemate Patrik Laine. Given the Jets’ depleted blue line, however, I doubt they’re considering that possibility. Speaking of the Jets…


Appearing on SPORTSNET 960 (Stick tap to @Account4hockey) on Oct. 7, Elliotte Friedman reported the Jets may have looked at Mark Pysyk. The Florida Panthers defenseman is believed available in the trade market. However, the Jets are stuck until Dustin Byfuglien decides on his future. Friedman also said the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks “kicked tires” on Pysyk.


NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Chelena Goldman speculates the San Jose Sharks might not be done making moves after bringing back winger Patrick Marleau earlier this week. One could be waiving Jonny Brodzinski to make room for Marleau’s $700K salary.

The Sharks also have 10 players slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Depending on how determined they are to right the ship after losing their first four games, that could provide flexibility for other moves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those UFAs also include Melker Karlsson, Brenden Dillon, Tim Heed, and Aaron Dell. Perhaps one of them becomes a trade candidate if the Sharks don’t snap out of their slump.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 9, 2019

The latest on the Pittsburgh Penguins plus updates on Roman Josi, Alex Pietrangelo, Brian Boyle and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports injuries will sideline Pittsburgh Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad for the next four weeks. While there’s no way they can find a suitable replacement for Malkin, McKenzie wonders if they’ll draw upon their blueline depth to find some short-term help in the trade market.

Jack Johnson was mentioned in recent trade speculation. McKenzie also suggested throwing Erik Gudbranson into the mix. It would have to be a dollar-in, dollar-out move to allow sufficient cap space when Malkin and Bjugstad return.

THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said it’s too early to pursue a trade for a center. Rutherford tried to peddle Johnson at the end of training camp. Rossi speculates he could call up a couple of forwards from their AHL affiliate.

Could the Pittsburgh Penguins attempt to shop Jack Johnson for a center? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s not much of a market for Johnson and I doubt Rutherford will have much luck floating Gudbranson in the trade market. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested Juuso Riikola as an option. The Penguins will probably ride it out for the time being while Rutherford keeps an eye on the trade market and the waiver wire.


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports there’s significant interest in Brian Boyle. The free-agent center is talking with several teams. McKenzie claims one of those clubs must either clear some salary-cap space or a roster spot to sign Boyle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wonder if the Penguins might be among those teams?


SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Roman Josi’s contract negotiations with the Nashville Predators have hit a snag. There was momentum in those talks during the summer but that’s stopped now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Tennessean’s Paul Skrbina suggests Josi’s asking price could be north of $9 million per season. Josi and Predators GM David Poile have downplayed the situation. I expect he’ll be re-signed but it won’t be for a hometown discount.

The St. Louis Blues could use Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract as a baseline in negotiations with Alex Pietrangelo. Ekman-Larsson is in the first season of an eight-year, $66-million deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates Ekman-Larsson’s annual average value is $8.25 million. The Pietrangelo camp could seek over $9 million per season.

The Florida Panthers will try to move Mark Pysyk. The veteran defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Friedman noted the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks had an interest during the summer. His AAV ($2.73 million) could be difficult for clubs with limited cap space to absorb.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 8, 2019

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


WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre expressed concern over a battered Jets defense that gave up 14 goals in their first three games of the season. Until Dustin Byfuglien decides on his future, however, there’s not much they can do to address the issue. “A money in, money out trade seems to be the only tangible option at this point,” said McIntyre.

The Jets are using largely untested defensemen, such as Ville Heinola and Carl Dahlstrom, to fill the gaps. They’ll also turn to Sami Niku, who’ll make his season debut tonight after recovering from a groin injury.

THE ATHLETIC: Murat Ares looked at possible trade options like Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen and Dallas’ Julius Honka. Ristolainen has plenty of experience but also comes with a $5.4 million annual salary-cap hit and would be costly to acquire. Ares is also critical of his five-on-five play. Honka would be more affordable and has potential but has yet to establish himself as a full-time NHL defenseman.

Could Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen become a trade target for the Winnipeg Jets? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets breathed a sigh of relief when top-pairing rearguard Josh Morrissey returned to practice yesterday after getting injured in the pre-game skate before Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders. I expect they’ll continue waiting for Byfuglien’s decision and hope the call-ups will improve. If Big Buff retires, they’ll have plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a top-four defender in the trade market.


OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren mused over which position recently acquired Vladislav Namestnikov will fill on the Senators’ forward lines. He played primarily as a winger with his former club, the New York Rangers.

If Namestnikov moves to center, Warren wonders what happens with current centers Colin White, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Chris Tierney, and Artem Anisimov. “Could there be an additional move coming?” he asked.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial reaction to the Namestnikov trade indicated the move was made to bolster the Senators’ depth at center. His versatility gives the Senators some flexibility to adjust their forward lines. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.


TORONTO STAR: Dave Feschuk wonders if the Maple Leafs backup-goalie position will remain a concern this season. Leafs coach Mike Babcock didn’t blame Michael Hutchinson for the club’s 6-5 meltdown on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. However, the Leafs need to know they can trust Hutchinson to spell off starter Frederik Andersen this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Feshuck acknowledged it’s just one game and too early to start worrying about Hutchinson’s performance. Nevertheless, this could be something worth watching as the season progresses. If Hutchinson can’t get the job done as Andersen’s backup, the Leafs could be forced to address the issue via trade or waivers.

NHL Rumor Mill – October 7, 2019

Updates on several 2020 RFAs, some Coyotes speculation, and the latest on Joshua Ho-Sang in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: The recent re-signings of Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot, Arizona’s Clayton Keller, and Colorado’s Samuel Girard left Pierre LeBrun wondering if those moves were a reaction to this summer’s RFA signings. Negotiations to re-sign notable youngsters coming off entry-level contracts dragged on throughout the off-season. Some, such as Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, weren’t resolved until the final week of the preseason.

Will the New York Islanders re-sign Mathew Barzal before next summer? (Photo via NHL Images)

LeBrun believes there have been preliminary talks between the New York Islanders and center Mathew Barzal, the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Pierre-Luc Dubois, the New Jersey Devils and center Nico Hischier, and the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman Victor Mete.

It could only be a matter of time until the Blackhawks open talks with Dylan Strome. Meanwhile, it could take until season’s end before discussions open between the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, the St. Louis Blues and rearguard Vince Dunn, and the Boston Bruins and winger Jake DeBrusk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those RFA talks could be determined by how much salary-cap space those teams carry for next season. As per Cap Friendly, the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Devils, and Islanders have more cap space to work with for 2020-21. They can afford to pursue new deals during the season for their notable free agents.

The value of the player is another factor. Barzal, Dubois, and Hischier are all first-line centers. That makes them more valuable to their respective clubs and a priority to re-sign.


THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Craig Morgan was asked if the Arizona Coyotes might trade Alex Goligoski this season. The 34-year-old defenseman’s no-movement clause has now become a modified no-trade.

Morgan doesn’t think they Coyotes have any desire to trade Goligoski. That might change if they’re out of playoff contention by the February trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates Goligoski has an eight-team no-trade list. That give the Coyotes some room to maneuver if they wish to shop him later this season. He’s signed through 2020-21 but his $5.45 million annual salary-cap hit could be a sticking point.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins weighed in on why the Oilers didn’t pluck Joshua Ho-Sang off waivers from the New York Islanders last week. He feels the only way Ho-Sang could help the Oilers is if he played as a top-six forward, something the winger hasn’t been able to do at the NHL or AHL levels.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay that’s the reason why Ho-Sang passed unclaimed through waivers last week. I’ve read some comments suggesting he’s an affordable gamble but that’s a view that doesn’t seem to be shared by NHL general managers. The fact he’s almost begging for a club to take a chance on him says all we need to know about his value in the trade market.