Latest on Evgeni Malkin, Rick Nash, Kari Lehtonen, Jimmy Howard and more in your NHL rumor mill. 


 

Malkin and Howard on the move this summer?

Could the Penguins trade Evgeni Malkin this summer?

Could the Penguins trade Evgeni Malkin this summer?

SPORTSNET:  Nick Kypreos believes Evgeni Malkin is playing his final games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, suggesting he could be traded this summer. Kypreos believes there couldn’t be a better time for the Penguins to trade him. Doug MacLean suggests Malkin would look good in Montreal or Vancouver, while Kypreos believes Malkin could “slide right in there” with Jaromir Jagr. He also believes the Penguins have to shed salary this summer. When asked about moving goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Kypreos replied, “expansion will look after that.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Pens want to move salary this summer, I believe  Fleury is more likely to move than Malkin. This isn’t the first time over the years that Malkin’s name surfaced in trade rumors. In 2008, it was “Malkin to the Kings“. Last year, there was chatter claiming Malkin was “unhappy in Pittsburgh“, which he and management quickly scuttled.

Assuming Malkin would accept a trade, I don’t believe Montreal or Vancouver have the pieces necessary to offer up the type of return to land him. Yes, the Habs need a top-line center, but that means giving up a big package which could mean moving promising Alex Galchenyuk as the centerpiece. Henrik Sedin has two more years left on his contract and is the Canucks first-line center, so I don’t see Malkin willing to play second fiddle there.

 With their depth in rising young talent, the Panthers certainly have the pieces to offer up a nice return, but why would they add Malkin when they’re already deep at center (Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, Nick Bjugstad and the recently-acquired Jared McCann)? And Jagr already has great chemistry with Barkov and left wing Jonathan Huberdeau. They’ve got a good thing going there in Florida and there’s no reason for them to swing that kind of blockbuster deal. Sorry, Nick, but that suggestion doesn’t make much sense. 

Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes as possible trade destinations for goaltender Jimmy Howard if the Detroit Red Wings decide to move him this summer. He considers the Hurricanes as potentially the best fit, citing their cap space and their depth in defense prospects and draft picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If those teams are on Howard’s list of preferred trade destinations, or if he’s willing to expand his list to include one of those clubs, then perhaps a Howard trade this summer is possible. Still, the Wings might have to pick up part of his $5.29 million cap hit. 

Highlights from Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts.”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman repeated a recent report of his in which a friend at the recent Memorial Cup said there was a good debate one night about whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs could try to unite the London Knights’ line of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matt Tkachuk as professionals. The Leafs own Marner’s right while Dvorak’s belong to the Arizona Coyotes. Tkachuk is eligible for the 2016 NHL draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman’s description of that discussion suggests this was just chatter among scouts and nothing more. I don’t see the Leafs making this move. Just because a line plays well in Junior doesn’t mean they’ll have the same success at the NHL level. 

Friedman notes the St. Louis Blues consider re-signing RFA left wing Jaden Schwartz to an extension was their focus this offseason. Schwartz is coming off a two-year bridge deal and has arbitration rights. Friedman considers term rather than dollars more important for Blues captain and UFA David Backes. There were rumors the Blues could go as high as four years at $6 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Schwartz could get a significant raises (perhaps up to $6  million annually) on a long-term deal. Backes’ situation will be interesting. If the Blues offer four years at, say, $5.75 million, will he take it? How much are the Blues willing to offer him? We’ll find that out in a few short weeks. 

 

He wonders if the Chicago Blackhawks will try to bring back defenseman Brian Campbell via free agency. Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd, meanwhile, appears headed to the UFA market as the club lacks the cap space to re-sign him. Ladd said he wants to compete for and win another Stanley Cup. He also said he’s thought about returning to British Columbia and playing for the Vancouver Canucks and has ruled out a return to his former club, the Winnipeg Jets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are also linked to Boston’s Loui Eriksson, and St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer admitted it would be quite an experience to play for his hometown Canucks. If they want to go the UFA route for a top-six winger, looks like they’ll have three potential options to choose from. 

Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said he isn’t buying out goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Nill also isn’t ruling out re-signing UFA blueliner Jordie Benn but letting Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski and Kris Russell depart in order to bring up some of his younger defenders. Nill also said they’ve “started the process” of talking over the future with captain Jamie Benn, who’s eligible next summer for UFA status. The Stars can re-sign him effective July 1 of this year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For better or worse, it appears the Stars could return with the tandem of Lehtonen and Antti Niemi next season. I also expect they’ll part ways with at least two of those pending UFA blueliners to make room for a couple of their kids next season. As for Jamie Benn, I expect he’ll be re-signed to an eight-year deal worth around $80 million total sometime this summer. 

There’s rumors the Arizona Coyotes are looking to add one or two defensemen via trade this summer. Center Martin Hanzal’s name came up as a trade candidate but a source claims the Coyotes are more likely to extend him. Hanzal has a year left on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have lots of cap space, two first-round picks and depth in young assets to use as trade bait this summer. I expect they’ll be among the busy clubs this summer. 

Friedman claims it sounds as though there’s legit interest in New York Rangers winger Rick Nash, who can approve 12 teams he’ll accept being dealt to. The Rangers also have depth in centers and “everyone is looking for centers.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s growing anticipation Rangers management will shake things up this summer. A Nash trade could be possible, but it depends on the level of interest and type of return. I doubt the Rangers move centers such as Derek Stepan or Derick Brassard, but Kevin Hayes could hit the trade block. 

The Nashville Predators and RFA winger Filip Forsberg are working toward a long-term deal. It could fall between Columbus’ Brandon Saad’s $6 million annual average salary and St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko’s $7.5 million.

Friedman guesses Randy Carlyle is a more serious head coaching candidate for the Anaheim Ducks than the Calgary Flames.

NHL deputy dommissioner Bill Daly told reporters the salary cap for next season could be “relatively flat”. It’s currently at $71.4 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Commissioner Gary Bettman’s previous projection was $74 million. Perhaps it’ll be between $72-$73 million? We’ll know for certain by the end of this month. 

Possible trade targets for the Islanders.

NEWSDAY: Arthur Staple suggests James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Alex Killorn, Ryan Callahan, Nikita Nestorov or Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings, Valeri Nichushkin of the Dallas Stars, Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Beau Bennett of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wayne Simmonds or Mark Streit of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers as potential trade targets for the New York Islanders.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  I doubt the Leafs are keen to part with van Riemsdyk, especially if (as rumored) they sign Steven Stamkos via free agency this summer. That combination could be a lethal one-two offensive punch for Toronto. I don’t see the Bolts parting with Killorn. Callahan or Nestorov, maybe. Bishop? Perhaps, but he’s got a full no-movement clause and might not be keen to join the Isles. I don’t see the Kings more Carter.

Nichushkin is a possibility, but I think the Stars will give him another season. Atkinson frequently surfaced in the rumor mill earlier this season but the Jackets seem intent on keeping him. It’s believed they’d rather move Scott Hartnell. If the Isles want Bennett, Pens GM Jim Rutherford could be happy to give him to them. The Flyers won’t move Simmonds but could part with Streit, but would the latter approve a return to the Isles? Eberle could be available but I think the Oilers are more intent on moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.