Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 4, 2017
Latest on Ilya Kovalchuk, Mike Smith, Evander Kane, Chris Tanev & more in your Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
SPORTSNET: Despite recent reports out of Russia claiming former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk could stay in the KHL, Elliotte Friedman said that’s not the case. The 34-year-old Kovalchuk remains interested in returning to the NHL next season.
The New Jersey Devils still own his rights, meaning he must either re-sign with them or the Devils do a sign-and-trade scenario. Neither option can be done until July 1. “It’s a complex deal because of New Jersey and getting him signed,” explained Friedman, “but the word is that teams are saying Kovalchuk still wants to come to North America.”
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports people who knew Kovalchuk as a teammate or member of their teams before he left for the KHL are interested in acquiring him. According to Brooks, “the Blues (with assistant general manager Martin Brodeur), Maple Leafs (with general manager Lou Lamoriello) and Sharks (with coach Pete DeBoer and assistant Johan Hedberg) are among more than a half-dozen clubs who have expressed interest in Kovalchuk.”
The New York Rangers are also interested in the Russian winger and wonders if the Rangers could tempt the Devils by dangling center Oscar Lindberg. He also feels Shero can’t overplay his hand “because he essentially will only hold Kovalchuk’s NHL rights through July 1.” Brooks speculates that if If the Devils haven’t dealt the winger by then, “he likely would return to Russia for a final season before becoming an unrestricted free agent next July 1, unencumbered at that point by his current status on the voluntary retired list.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how much serious interest there is in Kovalchuk as July 1st approaches and the dust settles from what’s likely to be a very busy trade market in the final two weeks of this month. The Blues already have Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Sobotka at left wing. If the Leafs opt to part ways with James van Riemsdyk this summer, perhaps Kovalchuk could be a fit there. He could provide a good boost of veteran experience at left wing for the Sharks, but GM Doug Wilson could prefer a younger option there.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Los Angeles Kings are among the teams interested in Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane, who’s a year away from unrestricted free agency. Friedman believes the Sabres could be willing to do it if a deal can be struck between the two sides.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman notes the Kings are in desperate need of salary-cap relief and a young scorer. Adding Kane could address the latter, but his $5.25 million cap hit for next season won’t help their cap issues unless they can shed salary. Friedman didn’t say if the Kings would try to dump salary on the Sabres, but I doubt their new GM Jason Botterill would entertain that option. If the Kings hope to acquire Kane, they’ll likely have to swing a cost-cutting deal with another club..
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos reports the dwindling market of available goalies who can make a difference is generating interest in Mike Smith of the Arizona Coyotes. Smith, who has two years remaining on his contract ($5.66 million annual cap hit), apparently wants to win now and the Coyotes could prefer going younger. “Talk is the salary cap might force them to be bottom-feeders, which means they might finally be ready to move Mike Smith,” said Kypreos.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rory Boylen (who cited the Kypreos report) suggests the Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets could use an experienced starting goalie. Smith has a no-trade clause but could be willing to waive it to join a better club. The Flyers ($13 million in cap space), Jets ($18 million) and Flames ($23 million) have the room to take on Smith’s contract. If any of them are interested, they could try to convince the Coyotes to pick up part of his annual cap hit or take back a toxic contract in return.
Elliotte Friedman reports teams are calling the Vancouver Canucks expressing interest in defenseman Chris Tanev, but the asking price is high. The Canucks are reluctant to part with him and it could take a very good return to sway them. Tanev carries an annual cap hit of $4.45 million annually through 2019-20. Canucks GM Jim Benning admits he’s listening to offers but isn’t shopping Tanev.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma wondered if Benning might consider offering Tanev to the Dallas Stars in exchange for the third-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Stars GM Jim Nill is willing to move that pick and it’s believed he’s seeking an established top-four, right-shot blueliner. Benning also denied a recent report claiming he’d spoken with Nill but didn’t rule out the possibility.
If Benning acquired that pick, Kuzma suggests it could be used to select a young center such as Gabriel Valardi, Casey Mittelstadt or Cody Glass. Benning also holds the fifth-overall selection, which Kuzma suggests could be used to pick a young defenseman such as Timothy Liljegren, Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Benning moves Tanev for that third overall pick, it will signal his commitment to a full roster rebuild, which he’s seemed reluctant to do over the last couple of years. I think Nill would jump at the opportunity to ship that third-overall pick to Vancouver for Tanev, but it remains to be seen if Benning will do it.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the New York Rangers are getting offers for goaltender Antti Raanta, who could be selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Moving Raanta, however, would mean the Rangers could lose a different player (Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast or Michael Grabner) to Vegas. Brooks believes the Rangers would want good value in return for Raanta.
Brooks also said the Rangers haven’t approached Dan Girardi or Marc Staal about a contract buyout or to ask them about waiving their no-movement clauses. However, that doesn’t mean either option won’t happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tough choice for the Rangers. They could lose Raanta for nothing in the expansion draft, but if they trade him another good player could be selected by Vegas. Still, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a Raanta trade. The market for quality goalies is shrinking and a club seeking help between the pipes could come calling with a worthwhile offer.