NHL Rumor Mill – April 28, 2017
Updates on John Tavares, Cam Fowler, Karl Alzner and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest 30 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman reported the New York Islanders are working hard on their pitch for a contract extension for team captain John Tavares, who’s eligible in July 2018 for unrestricted free agency.
Given Tavares’ desire to win, Friedman wonders what effect making Doug Weight the full-time head coach, the club’s pitch to build a new arena at Belmont Park and the retention of Garth Snow as general manager could have upon efforts to re-sign the talented center. The Isles can open contract talks with Tavares on July 1.
If the Islanders and Tavares fail to reach agreement on a new contract, Eric Engels suggests the Montreal Canadiens should pursue the center if he’s placed on the trade block this summer, despite the potentially expensive asking price. The Habs lack a first-line center, which was a key reason why they failed to advance beyond the opening round of this year’s playoffs. If Tavares is unavailable, Engels lists Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and KHL forward Vadim Shipachyov as possible options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Tavares hits the trade block, and that’s a big “if” right now, the Canadiens won’t be the only club pursuing him. If he still believes the Isles are heading in the right direction he’ll re-sign with them, probably an eight-year deal worth around $10 million annually. I think the Habs stand a better chance of acquiring Duchene, though that move could also prove expensive and possibly too difficult to pull off.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols recently cited NHL insider Pierre LeBrun telling Toronto’s TSN 1050 the first order of business for the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason is determine what to do with defenseman Cam Fowler, who’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. LeBrun believes the Ducks must find out before the expansion draft what the rearguard’s intentions are.
If Fowler intends to re-sign, they can shop one of their surplus blueliners rather than risk losing one to the Vegas Golden Knights. If Fowler won’t re-sign (and LeBrun isn’t saying he won’t), he could be the one moved. LeBrun points out the Ducks can’t re-sign the blueliner until July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fowler has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4 million. He’ll likely want a seven- or eight-year deal worth over $6 million per season. Given his increasing value to the Ducks’ blueline, I expect they’ll re-sign him. If he does become available in the trade market, expects the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils to come calling.
WASHINGTON POST: Isabelle Khurshudyan reports the Capitals limited salary cap space could make defenseman Karl Alzner their odd man out this summer. Alzner, 28, is eligible for UFA status in July, along with teammates T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Williams, while Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov and Brett Connolly are their notable restricted free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have over $50 million invested in just 11 players next season. They could get some additional cap relief when they lose a player via the expansion draft. They can’t afford to re-sign everyone. If Alzner hits the open market, he’ll attract considerable interest from clubs in need of a skilled shutdown blueliner. Some of them could be those noted above who could have interest in Cam Fowler.
BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa recently examined the Buffalo Sabres’ search for a new general manager and head coach. Whoever takes over as GM must find the right coach to work with young center Jack Eichel. If that doesn’t work out down the road, Eichel could end up getting dealt. The new GM must also fix the team culture and improve the defense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be clear, Shinzawa isn’t saying Eichel will be traded by a new Sabres general manager, merely suggesting that could be his fate in the future if he can’t work with the new coach. The Sabres are a mess right now and it’s up to owner Terry Pegula to hire the right people to straighten things out.
Shinzawa also said it’s uncertain if Mike Condon will return with the Ottawa Senators after this season. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July. He also speculates the Boston Bruins could buy out winger Jimmy Hayes.
BSN DENVER: Adrian Dater recently reported sources say defenseman Nikita Zadorov hopes to re-sign with the Colorado Avalanche but it’s possible he could get a tempting offer from a KHL team. Zadorov, 22, is completing an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Zadorov camp could use the threat of a KHL contract as leverage to garner a better deal. Not saying he will, but since he’s ineligible for arbitration, it’s the only real bargaining chip he has.