NHL Rumor Mill – June 30, 2017
On the eve of free agency, here’s a look at the latest on the notable potential UFAs in your NHL rumor mill.
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan cites TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculating the New Jersey Devils could make the highest offer for UFA defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Tampa Bay Lightning are also linked to Shattenkirk. The Leafs, Rangers, Sabres and Golden Knights could also be among his suitors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Shattenkirk wants the big bucks, signing with rebuilding teams carrying lots of salary-cap space (Sabres, Devils) are his best bet. If he hopes to land with a playoff contender, however, I believe he’ll have to accept less money.
CSN BAY AREA: Kevin Kurz reports forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau haven’t closed the door on re-signing with the San Jose Sharks. However, there’s no indication the Sharks are close to a deal with either guy. The Los Angeles Kings are reportedly interested in Thornton, and he could also draw interest from “other teams like the Rangers, Blues, Predators, Penguins or Maple Leafs.” Marleau, meanwhile, was linked to “Ducks, Predators, Maple Leafs and Flames.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton and Marleau could indeed move on, but I also think they’re using this situation as leverage in contract talks with the Sharks. Wouldn’t surprise me if they field the best offers and then return to the Sharks to see if they’ll match. Both obviously prefer finishing their careers in San Jose. If they move on, however, their preference could be signing with clubs as close to San Jose as possible.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports defenseman Trevor Daley may be close to signing with the Detroit Red Wings while Dan Girardi could have a deal in place with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Regarding this summer’s notable UFA goalies, he predicts Chad Johnson signs with the Buffalo Sabres, Brian Elliott head to the Philadelphia Flyers, Steve Mason joins the Winnipeg Jets, Ryan Miller heads to the Anaheim Ducks, Antti Niemi inks with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anders Nilsson could land with the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins are indeed in the market for a veteran backup goaltender. Maybe they sign Niemi if the price is right. He really struggled in Dallas but perhaps he can regain his form in Pittsburgh.
TSN: Reports out of Russia indicate winger Ilya Kovalchuk is meeting with KHL team SKA St. Petersburg. Kovalchuk has expressed interest in returning to the NHL if a sign-and-trade deal can be worked out with the New Jersey Devils, who still own his NHL rights. Pierre LeBrun reports Kovalchuk is merely keeping his options open in both leagues. He must wait until July 1 to sign with the Devils in order to be traded to another NHL club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Kovalchuk will return to the NHL and he could be donning a Blue Jacket. Columbus team president John Davidson recently acknowledged his team’s interest in the veteran winger and they cleared some cap space yesterday with their buyout of left wing Scott Hartnell.
Washington Capitals pending UFA winger Justin Williams is attracting considerable attention. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports up to 10 teams have spoken with him. He believes the Dallas Stars could be among the suitors. Newsday’s Arthur Staple said the New York Islanders could have interest. Chuck Gormley sees him signing with the Maple Leafs. The Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning could also kick the tires on Williams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite his age (35), Williams remains an effective second-line right wing. Given the lack of quality depth in this summer’s UFA market, he won’t have any problem landing with a new NHL team. I’d add the Montreal Canadiens to that list of destinations, especially if they lose Alexander Radulov to free agency.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports the Penguins could hit the trade market to find a replacement for center Nick Bonino if he departs tomorrow via free agency. As many as 10 teams (including the Columbus Blue Jackets) have reportedly expressed interest in Bonino. Mackey doubts the Penguins will overpay to add a free-agent center such as Joe Thornton, Martin Hanzal or David Desharnais. He notes a rumor linking the Penguins to Colorado’s Matt Duchene, but “if you’re not going to pay Bonino $4 million, how much sense does it make to pay Duchene $6 million?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mackey sees the Penguins make a low-key deal like the one they made two years ago when they acquired Bonino from the Vancouver Canucks. While I wouldn’t fully dismiss a possible dip into the UFA pool, I agree that the trade market is likely the better route to address Bonino’s potential departure.
BOSTON HERALD: Steve Conroy reports trade speculation regarding Minnesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella continues to bubble. The Bruins are among the clubs linked to Scandella, who has three years remaining on his contract worth $4 million annually. His addition, however, could thwart the development of young blueliners within the Bruins system.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I get the sense the Bruins want to add a veteran left-handed d-man to their blueline. They’ll have to balance that addition with the youngsters in their system. If they add a free agent it could be to an affordable short-term deal that can be easily moved if one or two kids play their away onto the roster.