NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2017
Latest on John Tavares, Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov plus updates on the Maple Leafs, Wild and Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman discussing the future of New York Islanders center John Tavares on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590 yesterday. Tavares is a year away from unrestricted free agent status and there’s considerable speculation over whether he’ll re-sign an extension on July 1.
“I don’t think he’s going to sign. I don’t think he signs July 1,” predicted Friedman. “I think the Islanders say, ‘We’re going to take our chances.’ He thinks the two sides are going to take this into next season and isn’t hearing any indication the Isles could trade their captain.
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Tavares’ future will dominate the NHL rumor mill until it’s resolved, with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the epicenter. He notes the Leafs were willing to spend big on Steven Stamkos, who last summer opted instead to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Cox points out the addition of young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander could change things for the Leafs, whose primary need now is for a defenseman. Still, if the Leafs acquired Tavares next season via trade, Cox believes it will vault them into contender status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve frequently said whenever talk of Tavares coming to Toronto flares up, the Leafs don’t need him. They have their superstar center in Matthews. He, Marner and Nylander are the future of the Leafs, a future Toronto fans got a tantalizing preview of in 2016-17 when the kids carried the club to an unexpected berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Prying Tavares away from the Isles via trade will cost the Leafs at least one of those good young forwards as part of a significant package deal. No, the Leafs need to keep their focus on landing that elusive top-pairing right-side defenseman. Let some other club blow its brains out over Tavares.
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle speculates over possible moves by the Leafs to bring in that right-side blueliner. He considers Kevin Shattenkirk a long shot and notes the rest of the UFA market is sparse. He suggests a trade is still possible. “The Ducks, Panthers and Jets have three solid D on the right side each. Jason Demers in Florida, in particular, is being shopped around and could be a solid fit.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget the chatter about Tavares, Leafs fans. Focus on more sensible columns (like Mirtle’s) examining how the Leafs could address their blueline needs.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Bob McKenzie telling Edmonton’s TSN 1260 still believes the Colorado Avalanche must “turn the page” on center Matt Duchene and trade him. He believes this has dragged on long enough and their suggestion they could retain Duchene isn’t good for either side. He believes the New York Islanders are still in on Duchene to some degree, noting the recent assets they acquired in the Travis Hamonic trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I appreciate Avalanche GM Joe Sakic’s desire to get the best deal he can, and I certainly don’t advocate moving Duchene simply for the sake of doing so. But it appears to me Sakic’s at risk of overplaying his hand, if he hasn’t already done so.
The Islanders, Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens are among the clubs thought to be interested in Duchene. There has to be a reasonable deal out there. If this drags on too long, whatever viable options are available to Sakic will vanish.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo believes the Minnesota Wild’s activities yesterday indicate a trade could be around the corner, possibly involving defenseman Marco Scandella. On Monday, the Wild re-signed Gustav Olofsson to a two-year deal and cut ties with Christian Folin.
The Wild only have around $12.5 million in salary cap room to re-sign key free agents such as Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, so they probably need to shed a contract. Russo also speculates the Wild could have interest in pending UFA forwards such as Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz, Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks and perhaps St. Louis’ Scottie Upshall.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are among the clubs who reportedly inquired into Scandella’s trade status.
THE ATHLETIC: Brian Hedger reports a source said the Chicago Blackhawks could be willing to bring back winger Patrick Sharp via unrestricted free agency on a low-risk contract. Sharp, a member of three Stanley Cup championships with the Blackhawks, was dealt to the Dallas Stars two years ago as a cost-cutting measure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are nearly $3 million over the cap ceiling for 2017.18. However, they could free up over $5 million in cap room to sign Sharp if the league allows them to place Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve when next season begins.
NEWS 1130: Rick Dhaliwal reports St. Louis Blues winger Nail Yakupov becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His agent said his client has interest in signing with the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: J.D. Lagrange raised the idea yesterday on Twitter of the Montreal Canadiens signing Yakupov to a professional tryout offer. I think that’s a good idea for the Canadiens or any club that might have interest in the former first-overall draft pick. If he plays well, sign him to an affordable one-year deal. If he washed out, you cut him and you’re not on the hook for anything.