NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2017
Latest on Ilya Kovalchuk and Ben Bishop, plus a look at possible offseason moves for the New York Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero said he confirmed with agent Jay Grossman that his client, Ilya Kovalchuk, “definitely wants to return to the NHL next season.” Shero has given Grossman permission to speak with other clubs and is open to a “sign-and-trade” scenario if it makes sense for the Devils.
Because Kovalchuk is on the league’s voluntary retirement list, he cannot sign an NHL contract until July 1. He’s also exempt from the June expansion draft and no picks in this year’s draft can be used in a possible Kovalchuk trade. “As well, if Kovalchuk were to delay his return to the NHL for a year, he would do so as a 35-year-old free agent,” writes LeBrun.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Elliotte Friedman appearing yesterday on the NHL Network discussing possible trade destinations for Kovalchuk. He notes the winger has a history in the New York area and suggested the Rangers as a possibility. Friedman also noted the winger had a home built in Florida and wondered ift Kovalchuk might consider the two teams (Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning) in that area. The Montreal Canadiens could be another possibility.
Friedman also wondered what type of term he’d get on an NHL contract. Citing the Vegas Golden Knights recent signing of Vadim Shipachyov to a two-year deal, he wonders if the 34-year-old Kovalchuk might seek a similar term.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James wonders if Kovalchuk might be of interest for the Detroit Red Wings. Despite his obvious scoring skills, St. James thinks the Devils could set an asking price that wouldn’t make sense for the Wings. She feels former Wing Thomas Vanek would be a better and cheaper option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Kovalchuk will get one- or two-year offers worth between $5.5 – $6 million annually. Once he determines where he wants to go, the Devils asking price could become the biggest sticking point. The Devils need scoring punch and could ask for a promising young forward in return. They also need help on the blueline.
The Rangers and Canadiens could kick the tires on Kovalchuk, but they have other issues to address. The Rangers could pursue Kevin Shattenkirk to boost their blueline. The Habs must re-sign Alexander Radulov and are in need of a scoring center, something Kovalchuk won’t address. The Panthers could have some interest in Kovalchuk but not the Lightning, who must re-sign Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat plus find a good top-four defenseman.
I can see teams with cap space in need of scoring punch, such as the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes or the Vegas Golden Knights, also having interest in Kovalchuk.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes big changes are coming for the New York Rangers in the wake of their elimination from the second round of the 2017 playoffs. He feels it “all but certainly will mark the end of the core group” that includes Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. “Everything will be on the table,” said Brooks.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance suggests the Rangers must make roster moves in preparation of the expansion draft, restructure their defense and sign Washington Capitals unrestricted free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Rangers could lose a good player to the Vegas Golden Knights (Michael Grabner, Antti Raanta or Nick Holden), which could prompt Rangers GM Jeff Gorton to shop one or more before the draft in hopes of getting a decent return. Custance also suggests buying out Dan Girardi, who carries a no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks doesn’t say what big changes he expects, but I daresay they could fall in line with Custance’s options. For months, Brooks speculated Girardi could be bought out to free up cap space and to protect another player in the expansion draft. You can see the buyout details here. It’s been rumored for months that Shattenkirk could sign with the Rangers, but that could depend upon his asking price. Anything north of $7 million annually could price him out of the Blueshirts’ range.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika speculates over possible goalie moves by the Dallas Stars in the wake of their acquisition yesterday of Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings. “The Stars can now protect Bishop in the expansion draft while exposing Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi,” writes Heika. “If Vegas takes either, the Stars will be relieved of the final year of that player’s salary. If Vegas leaves both, Dallas will likely look to trade Niemi or buy him out.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Niemi will be bought out. Though he has only one year left on his contract, his play declined over the last couple of years. That’s unlikely to entice teams to pick up his $4.5 million cap hit.