NHL Rumor Mill – July 25, 2017
Updates on the Penguins, Bruins and Islanders in your NHL rumor mill.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jerry DiPaola reports the PIttsburgh Penguins re-signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin leaves them with about $6.28 million in salary-cap space. They must also re-sign winger Conor Sheary, who’s scheduled for arbitration on August 4.
Once Sheary is re-signed, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford expects he’ll have around $2 million in cap space to add a third-line center via trade.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE’s Jason Mackey reports all’s quiet regarding unrestricted free agent center Matt Cullen. Rutherford’s heard nothing regarding the 40-year-old center’s plans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In recent weeks, there was talk of the Penguins having interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene ($6 million annual cap hit through 2018-19) and Toronto Maple Leafs pivot Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million and eligible next July for UFA status). But unless Rutherford can clear significant cap room, there’s no way he can afford to take on either guy. Defenseman Olli Maatta’s come up as a trade candidate but shipping him out for a third-line center would weaken their blueline depth.
If Rutherford goes the trade route for a third-line center, he could target clubs bumping up against the salary-cap ceiling, such as the Detroit Red Wings. In that scenario, he’ll likely offer up a draft pick or prospect.
As for Cullen, it’s certainly possible he could return on a one-year contract, but he could also land with another club. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Wild reportedly contacted him. Cullen could also be considering retirement. If he does return to the Penguins for one more year, I see him in the fourth-line center position.
CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty pumps the brakes on the NHL Network touting the Boston Bruins’ blueline strength. He feels their blueline is “one player short and probably at least two years of development shy” of developing into the strength the Bruins need to become Stanley Cup contenders again. He points out they weren’t able to lock down a top-four defenseman with a left-handed shot via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable assessment. Yes, the Bruins have two promising youngsters in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Should they develop as expected they’ll play significant roles in improving Boston’s defense corps. However, they’re not there yet.
Perhaps the Bruins will look for that top-four left-shooting blueliner via trade throughout the remainder of the offseason. Free agent options include Andrei Markov, Francois Beauchemin and Mark Streit, but both are in the late-thirties and likely aren’t on the Bruins’ radar.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) July 21, 2017