NHL Rumor Mill – July 21, 2017
Updates on John Tavares, Tomas Tatar and Ilya Kovalchuk in your NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis weighs in on the lack of news regarding the New York Islanders efforts to re-sign captain John Tavares, who’s eligible next July for unrestricted free agency. As each day passes with Tavares unsigned, there’s growing anxiety among Islanders fans. If a deal isn’t possible, Cyrgalis believes GM Garth Snow knows it would be prudent to trade Tavares rather than risk him losing him for nothing via free agency.
Cyrgalis also thinks it’s also possible Tavares could play out next season with the Isles while Snow listens to offers. If no worthwhile ones are found, Snow could still try to re-sign the superstar center before July 1.
Cyrgalis notes Snow acquired right wing Jordan Eberle last month. He also traded defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary for a handful of high draft picks, which could be used as trade bait to acquire another elite forward. Cyrgalis considers Colorado Avalanche center/wing Matt Duchene as the most obvious trade target.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tavares repeatedly said this decision wouldn’t be an easy one. After the Isles disappointing performance last season following their promising playoffs in 2016, I believe he needs assurances they’re heading in the right direction. I don’t see Snow trading Tavares this summer. Both sides could take a wait-and-see approach to 2017-18.
Bringing in Duchene could certainly help improve the Isles chances of re-signing Tavares, especially if the pair develop a strong on-ice chemistry. However, the Avalanche want a big return for Duchene, including a young, established top-four defenseman. They apparently rejected an offer of Hamonic and a first-round pick before he was shipped to the Flames. There are rumors claiming the Avs could have an eye on top prospects Mathew Barzal and Ilya Sorokin, but Snow is likely reluctant to part with them.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan reports winger Tomas Tatar seeks a six- to seven-year contract from the Detroit Red Wings close to $6 million annually, while the club prefers a five-year deal worth $5 million per season. If he’s awarded a one-year contract via arbitration, the two sides can open contract talks again on January 1.
If no long-term deal can be reached, Kulfan believes it’s a good possibility Tatar could be moved at the trade deadline if the Wings are out of the playoff picture by then. He thinks Tatar could fetch “an early-round draft pick, or highly-rated prospect”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The two sides could reach an agreement on a new contract before the arbiter reaches a decision tomorrow. The Wings could also reject that ruling, though that would allow Tatar to become an unrestricted free agent and they would lose him for nothing. I think Tatar gets a one-year deal and the two sides revisit discussions in January. The longer he goes without a new contract, the greater the likelihood he’s shopped at the trade deadline.
SPORT-EXPRESS’s Igor Eronko reports Ilya Kovalchuk believes this coming season will his last with SKA St. Petersburg as he still hopes to return to the NHL next year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kovalchuk’s rights are still held by the New Jersey Devils for the upcoming season but he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next July. The Devils tried to do a sign-and-trade last month but GM Ray Shero claimed he didn’t get a serious offer. That’s probably because interested clubs know they can sign Kovalchuk next summer without having to give up assets to get him. There will be interest in him as a free agent, though he won’t get an expensive long-term deal.