NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2020

Check out the latest Rangers off-season speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers face a daunting challenge to re-sign Tony DeAngelo this off-season. The 24-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights with 53 points in 68 games this season.

Can the New York Rangers afford a big raise for defenseman Tony DeAngelo? (Photo via NHL Images)

It could cost the Rangers at least $6 million on a long-term contract. The two parties could agree to a short-term bridge deal around $5 million per season. Failing that, DeAngelo could become the first Ranger in over a decade to file for arbitration, but that’s not an alternative favored by anyone.

A cap crunch is coming for the Rangers, with Jacob Trouba earning $8 million annually, Adam Fox due for a big raise down the road, and promising Nils Lundkvist within their system. If signing DeAngelo proves too difficult, Brooks suggested shopping him for a legit top-nine forward with top-six potential.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $67 million invested in 15 players for next season. Assuming the cap remains at $81.5 million, a $6-million annual average value for DeAngelo will eat up almost half of their roughly $14 million in cap space.

If they can find a way to shed the final season of Henrik Lundqvist‘s contract (or a significant chunk of it), it would free up room for DeAngelo’s new deal. Still, it might also be a good idea to sell high on DeAngelo if they’re confident Trouba will improve, Fox won’t regress, and a promising youngster like Lundkvist can make an easy transition to the NHL.

Brooks also reported there was some discussion within the Rangers front office if they would be better off with a prototypical north-south forward (like Columbus’ Josh Anderson) rather than a finesse-oriented one like Pavel Buchnevich. While the 24-year-old winger surfaced in trade speculation, the Rangers weren’t close to moving him.

A primary reason is his compatibility with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on and off the ice. He also reached career highs this season in assists (30) and points (46).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buchnevich also has another season remaining on his contract with an affordable $3.25-million AAV. They can afford to hang onto him for another season and see if that chemistry with Zibanejad and Kreider continues to flourish.

Brooks reports Jesper Fast‘s future with the Blueshirts is in doubt. The 28-year-old winger will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Management had preliminary discussions with Fast’s camp before last month’s trade deadline but failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

A lower-than-projected salary cap for next season means fewer dollars for the Rangers, but also for other clubs, which could make it difficult for Fast to find better options elsewhere. Brooks speculates the Rangers could circle back to Fast once the fate of this season is decided.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Re-signing RFAs like DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev could leave the Rangers with little room to retain Fast. Unless, of course, they find a way to shed Lundqvist’s contract.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 26, 2020

Check out the latest Flames and Capitals speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently examined four of the biggest off-season questions facing the Calgary Flames.

Could Johnny Gaudreau face an uncertain future with the Calgary Flames? (Photo via NHL Images)

Francis believes it may have been clear to management to consider trading Johnny Gaudreau and/or Sean Monahan had they failed to get the Flames into the playoffs this season or beyond the opening round. Assuming the schedule doesn’t resume, Gaudreau and Monahan will get another shot at it next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think the Flames will move Gaudreau and/or Monahan following this season. If the schedule resumes this summer and the Flames struggle again, it will be a justifiable reason not to peddle one or both of their young stars. Nevertheless, those two will feel the pressure to step it up next season. Another disappointing finish in 2020-21 will raise questions over their respective futures in Calgary.

Five of their nine defensemen – Travis Hamonic, TJ Brodie, Michael Stone, Erik Gustafsson, and Derek Forbort – are unrestricted free agents. Keeping Hamonic or Brodie could be the priority, while Calgary-resident Stone could be re-signed at the league minimum as a short-term insurance policy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames are fortunate to have some promising youngsters that can replace those UFA blueliners they don’t re-sign. I can see them keeping Hamonic or Brodie to maintain some experienced stability on the right side of their blueline. I agree with Francis’ take on Stone. Gustafsson and Forbort, meanwhile, were short-term pickups to buoy the Flames’ defense down the stretch and into this postseason

Re-signing Cam Talbot and what form of compensation they’ll get from last summer’s James Neal-for-Milan Lucic are other questions facing the Flames. Talbot resurrected his career in Calgary, but Francis wondered if he might prefer playing where he can get more playing time.

The Flames were supposed to receive a third-round pick in 2020 if Neal scored 21 goals and Lucic ten fewer than Neal. Neal has 19 goals and Lucic eight. If the season isn’t resumed, the Flames could appeal for a ruling from the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Flames are comfortable with David Rittich was their starter, they can afford to part ways with Talbot unless he’s willing to accept the backup role. They can find some suitable replacements for him via the UFA market.

CAPITALS FREE-AGENTS UPDATE

THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir recently examined the decisions faced by Washington Capitals managment regarding their unrestricted free agents.

Despite the second-half improvement in goaltender Braden Holtby‘s performance, his days are likely numbered in Washington. The Caps’ limited cap room makes him too expensive to re-sign. Meanwhile, recently-acquired winger Ilya Kovalchuk‘s performance over the rest of the schedule and the Capitals cap space will determine whether they can afford him.

A strong finish to the season could earn recently-acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon a contract extension if his asking price is reasonable. Blueliner Radko Gudas appeared the odd-man-out in recent games, which doesn’t bode well for his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with those assessments. With over $71 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, they’ll only have around $10 million to work with if the cap remains at $81.5 million.

Despite his struggles, Holtby will seek a raise over his current $6 million AAV. With Ilya Samsonov their future starter, they have little choice but to part ways with Holtby following this season. Kovalchuk, meanwhile, is reportedly all-but-assured of returning to the Montreal Canadiens on a one-year, bonus-laden deal next season.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 25, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 25, 2020

More compliance buyout speculation and how the Canadiens cap space could serve them well in the off-season in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HYPOTHETICAL COMPLIANCE BUYOUT CANDIDATES

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox reports the anticipation of the 2020-21 NHL salary cap taking a COVID-19 hit has generated speculation the league and the NHL Players Association could agree to the implementation of compliance contract buyouts. He listed 11 hypothetical amnesty buyout candidates, with Vancouver’s Loui Eriksson ($6 million annual average value through 2021-22) topping the list. With Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli and others to re-sign, a compliance buyout window would help the Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks were rumored looking into trading Eriksson last summer, but couldn’t find any takers for his contract. Given the complications they’ll face if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, he’ll be a prime compliance buyout candidate.

Others could include Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader ($4.25 million AAV through 2022-23), Chicago’s Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million AAV through 2023-24) provided he’s recovered from his recent surgeries, Calgary’s Milan Lucic ($6 million through 2023-24), Montreal’s Karl Alzner ($4.625 million through 2021-22), and the New York Islanders’ Andrew Ladd ($5.5 million through 2022-23).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox points out the Wings can afford to absorb Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen ($5.25 million AAV through 2021-22), but general manager Steve Yzerman could avail himself of the opportunity to shed the expensive contracts of fading veterans.

if Seabrook hasn’t been medically cleared to return to action during the buyout period (whenever that might be), the Blackhawks won’t be able to avail themselves of that option. Lucic, Alzner, and Ladd are probably goners. The Isles attempted to trade Ladd to the Minnesota Wild as part of a complicated deal for Zach Parise at the trade deadline.

Could Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky become a compliance buyout candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo ($6 million AAV through 2022-23), Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky ($10 million AAV through 2025-26), the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist (one year at $8.5 million), Edmonton’s James Neal ($5.75 million through 2022-23) and Anaheim’s David Backes ($6 million for one more season) round out this list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see those guys receiving compliance buyouts. A couple of readers questioned Bobrovsky being a candidate when I wrote about this in an earlier Rumor update, claiming he’s the victim of the Panthers’ woeful defense.

That’s as may be, but there’s no denying the two-time Vezina Trophy winner has struggled over the last two years. His performance this season was not the Panthers’ front office banked on when they signed him to that whopping big contract.

There’s talk that ownership will want to slash payroll if they miss the playoffs this season. An amnesty buyout for Bobrovsky would be the easiest option.

LATEST ON THE CANADIENS

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens could be well-positioned to use their cap space to their advantage once the salary-cap figures are determined for 2020-21.They have over $63 million invested in 16 players.

Re-signing restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete and re-signing or replacing other free agents will have little impact upon next summer, when such notables as Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, Jeff Petry, and Phillip Danault will become free agents. Engels suggested they’d have more flexibility if they traded Domi for a defenseman like Minnesota’s Matt Dumba. 

Engels believes it’s all but assured winger Ilya Kovalchuk will return to the Canadiens on a bonus-laden deal next season. He also anticipates they’ll look to the UFA market for a reliable backup for Carey Price. He doubts they’ll go the offer-sheet route this summer, but they could target cap-strapped clubs looking to make cost-cutting trades before the start of next season, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens fans and pundits have been waiting for Bergevin to use his cap space to provide a significant boost to the roster. This summer could provide that opportunity if the cap remains flat and compliance buyouts aren’t implemented as a cost-cutting measure.

As for the suggestion of trading Domi for Dumba, the latter lacks no-trade protection, but it could be premature to believe Wild GM Bill Guerin will go that route. If he does, he’ll be shopping Dumba to the highest bidder, meaning Domi might not be enough to pry him away from the Wild. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 24, 2020

The NHL schedule remains paused but the off-season trade and free-agent speculation keep churning. Check out the latest on the Leafs and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LEAFS LIMITED CAP SPACE COULD HAMPER EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE BLUELINE

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox listed the biggest off-season questions facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Improving the blueline remains a pressing need, especially on the right side. Landing a dependable right-shot blueliner via free agency, like Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Tanev, Travis Hamonic, Justin Schultz, or Radkos Gudas, is a long shot. General manager Kyle Dubas could be forced into the trade market for someone like Matt Dumba, Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller and Josh Manson.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen become an off-season trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Leafs penalty kill also needs help. Fox believes that rings back to their need for more experienced stay-at-home defenders and a reliable face-off man. Their limited salary-cap space means Kasperi Kapanen and/or Andreas Johnsson and/or Alexander Kerfoot could become trade candidates. The trio lack no-trade protection in their respective contracts.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the possibility of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million next season spells big trouble for the Leafs. They have around $77 million invested in 17 players, with restricted free agents Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, Frederik Gauthier and Denis Malgin to re-sign. Veteran forwards Jason Spezza and recently-acquired Kyle Clifford are unrestricted free agents.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas surprised many observers last summer (including me) with his ability to juggle his limited cap room to re-sign Mitch Marner to a lucrative long-term contract. He was able to do that in part because he could place permanently sidelined forwards Nathan Horton and David Clarkson on long-term injury reserve.

As Fox observed, Dubas won’t have that option this summer. He could gain some flexibility by acquiring another club’s permanent LTIR player. That’s what he did last summer by reacquiring Clarkson’s rights, but there’s no certainty he can pull off a similar deal again.

Kapanen, Johnsson, and Kerfoot often surfaced in this season’s rumor mill leading up to last month’s trade deadline. Dubas resisted moving either guy, but he could end up peddling one of them this off-season for a right-side defenseman. I don’t see either of those guys being sufficient to land Dumba or Manson, and the Sabres could be reluctant to send Ristolainen or Miller to a division rival.

LATEST ON THE BRUINS

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined the long-term outlook for the Boston Bruins. Their biggest challenges this off-season are re-signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Torey Krug and restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk. Gretz feels there’s enough salary-cap space to re-sign both, though there could be some pressure to keep Krug around the $6.5 million mark that the other core players receive.

Starting goalie Tuukka Rask recently hinting at retiring next year at the end of his current contract could be worth keeping an eye on. Backup Jaroslav Halak is a UFA this summer and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug suggested last fall he’d be willing to consider a hometown discount, but we haven’t heard anything further about that possibility. Perhaps a front-loaded deal in which Krug earns $7.5 million in actual salary at the start of a seven-year deal that gradually declines to $5 million by the final year would be acceptable to him. It would keep his cap hit around that $6.5-million range.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 23, 2020

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask ponders retirement at the end of his current contract, plus a look at several potential compliance buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD RASK RETIRE AT THE END OF HIS CONTRACT?

THE SCORE: Brandon Maron reports Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask isn’t ruling out retirement at the end of his current contract. In an interview with the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter, Rask hinted at hanging up his pads when his contract expires in 2021. “I have one year left in the contract, so we’ll see if I even play,” Rask said. “We’ll see. Always a possibility.”

Could Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask retire next year? (Photo via NHL Images)

The 33-year-old netminder ruled out returning to play in his native Finland, citing family reasons. “Just be home. The wear and tear of the travel with two, almost three kids now, makes you think. I love to do it. But it’s tough.” Maron indicates Rask leads the league in goals-against average (2.12) and sits second with a .929 save percentage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While that report will likely cause the collective hearts of Bruins fans to skip a beat, Rask isn’t saying for certain that he’s packing it in after next season. It could just be some early posturing on his part to perhaps encourage Bruins management to open contract extension talks following the end of this season, whenever that might be.

Nevertheless, it’s an indication that Rask re-signing with Boston isn’t a sure thing. If he does retire, the Bruins will be scrambling to find a suitable replacement next year.

POSSIBLE COMPLIANCE BUYOUT CANDIDATES

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently examined which players could receive compliance buyouts if the NHL implements that policy to help cap-strapped club shed salary next season. He cited Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke floating that possibility in a recent interview with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now: “I’ve heard discussion of compliance buyouts to help teams get to this new cap, to solve some of their problems. Which they gave in the last CBA, each team got two cap-compliance buyouts which were exempt from the cap. I’ve heard talk of that, said Burke.

Staples considers “Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielson…Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders, Milan Lucic of the Flames, Kyle Okposo of the Sabres, and Loui Eriksson of Vancouver” as the most obvious possibilities among NHL forwards.

Defensemen could include New Jersey’s P.K. Subban and St. Louis’ Justin Faulk, while Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (provided his injury status would allow it) are his likely goalie candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting compilation from Staples. I agree with his assessment of those most likely to receive compliance (amnesty) buyouts.

For now, of course, there’s no certainty the NHL and NHL Players Association will implement that buyout scheme. Much will depend upon whether the league can finish this season and how much of their lost revenue they can recoup.

The two sides could also agree to an artificial cap that could be higher than the current $81.5 million. That would eliminate the need for such buyouts.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 22, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 22, 2020

The latest on the Islanders, several stars who may have played their final NHL games, and questions about conditional draft picks in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

ISLANDERS WOULD MATCH OFFER SHEET FOR BARZAL

SPORTSNET: In a recent Q&A with New York Islanders fans, general manager Lou Lamoriello said it wasn’t his intention to let contract talks with Mathew Barzal reach the point where the 22-year-old center received an offer sheet from a rival club. If Barzal did sign one, however, Lamoriello said he’d match it. He remains confident in getting Barzal and fellow restricted free agents Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews re-signed.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles have over $71 million invested in 18 players. Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, Lamoriello will be hard-pressed to squeeze new contracts for Barzal, Pulock, and Toews within that $10 million of cap space available to him.

Matching an expensive offer sheet would gobble up almost all of that cap room. Lamoriello would get some cap wiggle room as he’s allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the off-season, but he must shed salary before the start of the season to become cap compliant.

I doubt Lamoriello’s worried about a rival GM signing Barzal to an offer sheet. Most NHL clubs will feel the financial squeeze from this pandemic, leaving few with enough cap room to take a run at poaching the young Isles center.

SEVERAL STARS WHO MAY HAVE PLAYED THEIR FINAL NHL GAMES

THE ATHLETIC: New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller, and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu are among those on James Mirtle’s list of 15 NHL players who may have played their final NHL games if this season is canceled.

Others include Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, and Anaheim Ducks winger David Backes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Lundqvist may have played his last game with the Rangers, but I can see him playing with another NHL club if he waives his no-movement clause or is bought out of his current contract. Miller turns 40 in July and I suspect the Ducks will replace him with a younger option. If he’s unwilling to leave Calfornia, he’s likely done. Koivu has already hinted at retirement.

Williams spent half this season mulling retirement before returning to the Hurricanes. He could be done after this. Bouwmeester’s recent cardiac incident has likely ended his playing career. Seabrook’s double hip surgeries place his playing career in jeopardy. Ditto Backes’ concussion history.

WHAT TO DO WITH CONDITIONAL DRAFT PICKS FROM RECENT TRADES?

TSN: Frank Seravalli recently reported there are many questions about how the NHL deals with the minutiae related to contracts and trades if the schedule is reduced or canceled. What happens with conditional draft picks involved in recent trades is among those issues.

In last summer’s deal that saw the Edmonton Oilers ship Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for James Neal, the Flames get a conditional third-round pick if Neal tallies 21 goals and Lucic under 10 this season.

“What does the NHL do moving forward here? Do they decide to prorate it? In which case Lucic would remain under 10 and Neal gets to about 23? Or do they decide to leave it as is and that’s just one of the questions at stake with regards to other bonuses in contracts and compensation? Things like expansion draft considerations and also other picks that changed hands for deals at the deadline. Can we see things like compensatory picks and such.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This issue will have to be sorted out once a final decision is reached regarding the remainder of this season and the playoffs. For now, your guess is as good as mine.