Updates on Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Phil Kessel, Mikko Koivu and Dougie Hamilton, plus the latest on the Avalanche and Red Wings.
Highlights from Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts.”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman walked back his recent comments saying Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was unhappy with losing and other clubs were hearing rumors he wanted a change of scenery, but there was zero chance of that happening. He claimed there were no motives behind his remarks and took responsibility for them.
Friedman noted reports earlier in the season claiming the Penguins discussed a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes which would bring center Jordan Staal back to Pittsburgh. He feels it never went anywhere at the time as the Hurricanes weren’t interested. He also believes the Penguins weren’t the only club to be rebuffed.
He feels the Toronto Maple Leafs are prepared to trade right wing Phil Kessel, for by the time the rebuilding club is ready to win again, Kessel will be past his prime. Things aren’t far enough along yet where Kessel becomes involved in trade talks. He carries a partial no-trade clause.
The Leafs will definitely look at trading the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. The Arizona Coyotes have had three calls about their pick, which sits third overall. GM Don Maloney isn’t sure what he’ll do yet. The Columbus Blue Jackets (eighth overall) could be a club willing to move up as they’re seeking depth in young defensemen.
After re-signing defenseman Jeff Petry, the Montreal Canadiens may need to make a “money-out” trade. Friedman wonders if there’s any way the Canadiens and Minnesota Wild might do a deal involving Wild center and captain Mikko Koivu.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can read Friedman’s original comments about Malkin here. I don’t believe Malkin wants out of Pittsburgh or that the Penguins intend to move him. If we go by his season-ending remarks about wanting to stay in Pittsburgh and win another championship with the Penguins, or those of his agent claiming the trade rumors weren’t coming from him or his client, it appears those rumors were baseless.
Hurricanes GM Ron Francis was quick to shoot down the “Staal back to Pittsburgh” speculation. Unless he demands a trade, he’ll be suiting up once again with the Hurricanes next season.
Two reasons why I don’t see Koivu as a good fit with Montreal. One, his cap hit is $6.75 million for three more seasons. The Canadiens have over $63 million invested in next season’s payroll, while the Wild have over $61 million. With both clubs pressed for cap space and in need of re-signing other key players, I don’t see how they can make the dollars fit. Second, Koivu is 32 and clearly on the downside of his career. He’s not an addition who can help the Canadiens.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs trade Kessel, but I still think his hefty contract (seven more seasons at $8 million per) won’t be easy to deal, which could force the Leafs to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade. I realize some of you disagree with me and I acknowledge it’s possible the Leafs could move Kessel without picking up part of his salary. However, two-thirds of the NHL’s 30 teams have cap payrolls in excess of $55 million entering an offseason where the cap ceiling might only rise to $71 million. Of those, 13 have cap hits in excess of $60 million. An $8 million cap hit is a big chunk of change for a number of teams to comfortably absorb.
Kessel also has a partial no-trade clause, and some of the speculation suggested either Western Conference teams had interest in him or the Leafs’ preference was to send him to a Western club. Add up those factors and it could be difficult to move his full contract. Doing so could mean taking back nearly an equal cap hit in return. Sounds easy, but the right fit must be found, especially if the rebuilding Leafs seek cheaper young talent.
Could the Bruins trade Hamilton?
CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty believes Boston Bruins RFA defenseman Dougie Hamilton is going to seek a big payday. It’s possible Hamilton could sign an offer sheet from a rival club. If the Bruins don’t match an offer sheet worth between $6-$7 million annually, they’ll be compensated with draft picks. Haggerty wonders if they’ll consider trading Hamilton, noting the Columbus Blue Jackets would be very interested in the 21-year-old rearguard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think the Bruins intend on trading Hamilton. While an offer sheet is possible, such moves are rare and almost always matched. Doing so would put the Bruins in a tight fix cap-wise, forcing them to perhaps ship out a player or two they preferred to retain. Still, I think they’re willing to gamble on Hamilton not receiving an offer sheet.
Avalanche need a puck-moving defenseman.
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers believes the Colorado Avalanche need another skilled defenseman capable of moving the puck up the ice. He suggests Los Angeles’ Andrej Sekera, Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, Washington’s Mike Green, San Jose’ Matt Irwin and Nashville Cody Franson as those who could immediately help the Avs. Chambers also claims the Avalanche are not expected to re-sign unrestricted free-agent defensemen Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sekera, Green, Irwin and Franson could all be available via the UFA market on July 1. Any of them could be easier to land than Gardiner, as the Leafs likely wish to retain him as part of their rebuilding program. Some Leafs fans might suggest swapping Gardiner for center Ryan O’Reilly, but I don’t believe the Avs make that deal. They still have a year to get O’Reilly under contract before he qualifies for UFA status.
Updates on the Wings.
MLIVE.COM: Responding to a reader’s question, Ansar Khan believes the Detroit Red Wings will be more aggressive in pursuit of a trade this summer as there’s not much depth in the UFA market. He speculates Jakub Kindl or Brendan Smith could become trade chips. Khan said he’d be surprised if they signed Washington’s Mike Green via free agency but acknowledge Nashville’s Cody Franson could be an option, though they’ll have to decide if spending big money on free agents is better than moving up Xavier Ouellet or Alexey Marchenko.