NHL Rumor Mill – July 14, 2017
Latest on Matt Duchene, Phil Kessel, Jordan Staal and more in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “30 Thoughts” column, Elliott Friedman reports one thing several NHL executives agree on is offer sheets are coming this summer. With the depth among next summer’s unrestricted free agents already shrinking, one of them believes the offer sheet is the best option to quickly improve a team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s certainly some tempting targets among this summer’s restricted free agents, such as Nashville’s Ryan Johansen, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and Boston’s David Pastrnak. However, those clubs already served notice they’ll match any offer. Just because a player can receive an offer sheet doesn’t mean they’re wiling to sign one. Meanwhile, several other notable RFAs, such as Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat, St. Louis’ Colton Parayko and Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson, filed for arbitration and are ineligible to receive offer sheets.
It’s possible Matt Duchene, a frequent subject of trade speculation since the middle of last season, could start next season with the Colorado Avalanche. However, Friedman isn’t ruling out the possibility of a trade later this summer. While the Avalanche are receiving criticism for their handling of this situation, he feels they have to win this trade after the Ryan O’Reilly trade didn’t work out for them. Duchene has two seasons left on his contract, which is a problem for some clubs, such as the Carolina Hurricanes.
Friedman feels the Avalanche still want to trade Duchene, who needs a fresh start elsewhere. He believes shipping him to a team where he could be the number two center, such as the New York Islanders or Los Angeles Kings, would be a good fit for the 26-year-old center. He thinks there’s a chance he would share the No. 1 center duties with Alex Wennberg if he were dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also feels the Pittsburgh Penguins are on the fringe of this.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman isn’t saying the Islanders and Kings are pursuing Duchene. He’s merely suggesting he could be a good fit with those clubs. While Duchene could certainly be a good fit with the Isles, Kings or Penguins, the Avs high asking price likely ensures he won’t land with those clubs before 2017-18.
In a recent live chat with his readers, The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline expressed doubt over Duchene potentially landing with the Blue Jackets. Though he admits that could change, he doesn’t get the sense that Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is actively searching for a first-line center.
Friedman believes there is something to the suggestion by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook that the Penguins could look into trading Phil Kessel. He notes the difficulty in moving Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit (the Toronto Maple Leafs carry the rest), which the Pens would likely have to pick up part of in order for a deal to take place. Still, he thinks the Penguins may have investigated the possibility. Saying it was merely conjecture on his part, Friedman suggested the Arizona Coyotes (where former Pens assistant coach Rick Tocchet is now the head coach) as a destination for Kessel.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In an interview yesterday with a Pittsburgh sports radio station, Rutherford dismissed the notion of trading Kessel. “He’s an important part. I don’t want to sit here and say that a certain player’s not going to get traded at some point in his career. I mean, Phil already did. But that’s not something that I foresee happening right now.”
Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill could be laying the groundwork for a move that eases a potential roster/salary cap jam.
Friedman recently speculated about a swap between the LA Kings and Ottawa Senators involving Kings forward Dustin Brown and Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf “because the money is almost even”. However, he thinks they were discussing Marian Gaborik, rather than Brown.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaborik is even worse from the Senators point of view. Though he carries a lesser annual cap hit ($4.875 million through 2020-21) than Brown, the 35-year-old winger is often hampered by injury and his last best season (41 goals, 76 points) came in 2011-12 with the New York Rangers. They’re better off sticking with Phaneuf.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jonathan Bombulie reports a trade for a third-line center to replace the departed Nick Bonino remains on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ summer agenda. GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t expect the acquisition to be costly to their salary cap payroll. He projects they’ll have around $2 million in cap space after re-signing RFAs Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary.
To Rutherford’s knowledge, Carolina Hurricanes center (and former Penguin) Jordan Staal isn’t available. Bombulie also observes Colorado’s Matt Duchene carries a $6 million annual cap hit and Toronto’s Tyler Bozak $4.2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hey, maybe Rutherford can trade Kessel to Carolina for Staal. I’m kidding, of course. But as Bombulie observes, if Rutherford wants someone like Staal, Duchene or Bozak, he’ll have to part with significant cap space to free up sufficient room. Sounds like Rutherford’s in the market for more affordable options. No idea yet who he’s targeting as all the recent speculation is upon those bigger names.