NHL Rumor Mill – July 25, 2017

by | Jul 25, 2017 | Rumors | 43 comments

Will Matt Cullen return to the Pittsburgh Penguins for one more season?

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. 



  1. Aren’t the Bruins top 2 LH D currently Chara & Krug. Boston doesn’t need a top 4 LH D. At least not until Chara retires.

    1 of Miller or McQuaid will play the left side with McAvoy. I assume Miller but it doesn’t really matter.

    • Ideally you want a LHD to begin eating into Chara’s minutes to make sure you are getting the most out of him down the stretch and into the playoffs, which is where I see this team going. Ultimately, that’s the guy that takes over once he retires as well. You can count on at least 20 games missed between McQuaid and Miller combined. Add another 5-10 throughout the season for Chara whether injury or personal health days. No matter how good Krug says he’s feeling, an MCL injury is no joke – especially for an undersized defenseman who relies on his speed, quickness and agility. Potsma is a decent depth guy but also a RHD. The kids will get their chances too – Zboril/Lauzon. Personally, I like what I’ve seen out of Lauzon more although most of the chatter is around Zboril

      I’d give up a draft pick for the rights to talk to Will Butcher before anyone else – not as much talk around him as Vesey this time last year but he’s the type of guy that can join a team and make an immediate impact. Smart two-way defenseman that played both the power play and penalty kill in college and in WJ

      • @sh21 I don’t know much about Butcher another then his scouting report, but if I didn’t look at the name on the report I think I was reading Krug scouting report. Do you think the bruins would be better having two similar type damn basically same stature as well playing on the same side. I understand the game is changing but I prefer my dman with skill and size and I’m ok with one but I’m not sold on two.

      • @Caper – I actually saw Butcher play live a couple of times this past season. Once in Providence (actually scored that game) and I also was in Chicago for the NCAA championships where he was the best player on the ice

        I understand your point with Krug, however. If I’m not mistaken, he’s taller than Krug and should still be able to pack some weight on. He also plays a bigger game than Krug. This is no knock on Krug at all, love him as a player and what he brings to the table but the injury does concern me

      • @Caper,

        Scouting reports can be misleading when it comes to defensemen. I don’t know about Butcher either, however scouts tend to categorize defensemen as either offensive of defensive, as if being excellent at one typically means they won’t be that great at the other. Many of the best defensive defensemen in hockey now are guys who were/are very good offensive players as well, or were big offensive players at lower levels, and still provide some, but maybe now gear a little more toward defense.

        The skills that seem to translate best from scouting reports tend to be skating, puck skills, vision, so when gambling on D, I think just adding as many with skill gives you the best chance to develop good D men, so I wouldn’t try too hard to only add certain archetypes, as D are so hard to project accurately.

    • Haggs doesn’t consider Krug a top 4 d, he think Torey is better suited as a third pairing dman. I still disappointed they didn’t protect C.Miller, the argument I heard is that both Carlo and MCAvoy have passed him on the depth chart, therefore no ice for Colin. Personally I think that’s flawed thinking, Colin was progressing very nicely and in the new age of the NHL were speed matters, you let your fastest skater go who was on a team friendly contract of $1m. Yes I would rather have C or K and this isn’t a knock on K but a recognition of C talents.

      • I agree, I think it was a bit of a mistake to let C. Miller go. He was excelling as a bottom pairing D, and while that doesn’t guarantee his success against better players, as he didn’t play against top tier players often, he certainly didn’t get enough time against them to determine that he can’t play against them either.

  2. Chara is a step behind and will be exposed this year as he was beginning to show his age last year. It’s a transition period for the Bruins and they certainly don’t have a quality blueline at this point, there’s promise but blueliners rarely develop that quick.

  3. Every year I hear the same Chara lost a step you would think by now he must be going in slow motion. Chara was still there best player during the playoffs the man was a horse and played every important minute. Time will eventually run its course but his size strength and leadership is still needed in Boston. His off season training is still second to none.

    • I agree that every year we have to hear this “chara has lost a step” routine and its is getting old. last season he was great, and as Obe said a beast in the playoffs. The year before he was coming off a knee injury and did look slow comparatively. but that is to be expected when coming back from a knee injury. bottom line is Chara is still effective and worth keeping around. Based on what Carlo showed last year and McAvoy in the playoffs the Bruins D will be fine this year.

      • When you have an aging player on a team, it’s just going to be said every year. And eventually , the people who say it will be right and rejoice in their great wisdom. It’s like saying ” it’s going to rain” every day, eventually you’re going to get it right. They just tend to forget being wrong 25 times before they got it right once.

      • Sure he’s losing a step but it’s a very small one. Chara is a freak of nature, his offseason training is not only in the gym but he is an avid biker covering thousands of miles in the outdoors. The guy is an absolute beast and I wouldn’t be writing him off

      • I wouldn’t call the step he has lost small, but when you were arguably the best defensemen in the NHL for a 5-6 year period, you need to lose a lot of steps before you stop becoming effective. Going from a Norris Calibre D to a good top 4 D is a lot of regression, but there are players who will never get better than Chara is now at 40, and they are still good players, so the fact that this isn’t Chara’s best shouldn’t mean he isn’t very useful.

      • They said the same thing year after year about Chelios. And he won the Stanley Cup at age 46.

  4. Chara is 40 and isn’t elite anymore, but at $4m he is still good value but the transition needs to be made. Personally never gave much thought to playing left side or right side until the Trouba situation in Winnipeg when he refused to play his off side because he felt he wasn’t suited for it. Not every player can play his off side or are comfortable doing so. Bruins only have 2 LD in Krug and Chara, next in line would be Zobril, who said he is out to prove something. Kid has the talent but may not be NHL ready this season. I believe Chara will sign for two more season at $4m per season will provide the bruins with insurance and decent value until the kids are ready.

    • I recall when Carlyle insisted on Phaneuf playing on the opposite side to which he was accustomed. He did it without complaint and although doing his level best (in the top pairing at that) he just couldn’t turn as easily on that side (it was pointed out several times in Coach’s Corner by Cherry as a mistake), and so began to be labeled a “pylon” by his critics.

  5. My hopes of Bos acquiring Brodin, my 1st choice of possible Dman available pre expansion were dashed.

    I say we just suck it up now go with what we have & try address if the opportunity presents it’s self between now & the time Chara retires.

    Grzelcyk is a LH D with 4 years of college & 1 year in the minors. Either he, Lauzon or Zboril should be ready soon. With Carlo only having 1 year under his belt & McAvoy entering his rookie year not sure how wise it is to add to much youth all at 1 time.

    I would have preferred bos retain C. Miller as well but what’s done is done.

    • Agree Striker, they should deal with the growing pains this year and they are inevitable. The question is will ownership and the local fan base and media. Not a patient sports town, and they will be in tough to make it into the playoffs again. Likely will come right down to the end.
      Also agree that Grzelcyk is likely the choice to start the year in Boston, although half the games will be from the press box barring injury. Zboril is there most talented D prospect after McAvoy and is likely best served playing in Providence most of the year until injury or his play forces him into the lineup. He needs the minutes in the top four in Providence and to play in all situations. Lauzon will not be in Boston next year except for a cup of coffee so he gets a taste of the NHL. He is a risk taker and needs to learn the pro game and until he does is not a lock to make it, even though he has some obvious talent.
      If the B’s want to contend before Bergeron and the rest of the core are on their downside, these kids better mature fast.
      I also think Chara a a couple productive years left before he packs it in.
      If Chara or Krug get hurt for any length of time, the B’s got a big problem.

    • I’m in no rush for a 5’9 175lb dman to be a top 2 dman, not when you already have Krug in that position. If anything maybe use Grzelcyk as a trade chip or Krug if you feel Matt is the better option, but not today.

      • caper, I agree but I think he will just be a depth guy for the left side to give one of the other guys a break or when McAvoy needs a game to watch from above as he goes through the learning process. he played well enough last year in Providence to earn an opportunity.
        As it sits now K Miller will be the 3rd pairing LD.
        Chara – Carlo
        Krug – McQuaid
        Miller – McAvoy
        Grzelcyk/O Gara – Postma

      • That’s the same top 6 & pairings for me at present. Postma can sit in the NHL & possibly O Gara but Grzelcyk needs to play. If boston doesn’t think O Gara can step in when something unexpected calls for him to play then another player will be added to peform the role.

  6. I can see the Pens being interested in Stajan from the Flames, they’d be able to fit his contract, it only has one year left and they can send money back the other way.

    • the only piece pens can afford to send to shed money is hagalin. And moving his 4 mil for 2 more years wouldn’t be easy. he is overpaid by about 1-1.5 mil. would it be impossible to move him? no… great speed, good pk guy, 2 time cup winner. but he wouldn’t return much of any value except cap space.

  7. I have no idea why Olli Maatta keeps coming up as a top notch trade chip. As the playoffs have proven he is awful defenceman who was a step behind anybody with above average speed. How many times was the isolated as the goat of a one on one play that lost a foot race.
    He will not bring back a Matt Duchenne or anybody with high end skill.

    • Scott, I agree with your assessment of Maatta play in the playoffs. But I put a lot of it on nerves of a young player feeling the pressure of the situation. Hopefully that experience will show some positive gains for him this season.
      I look at Pitts and see a team that won the cup without their #1 dman and if Letang can stay healthy and play in the playoffs, that but Pittsburgh in a better situation then they were this year when they won it all.

      • Well said caper, mattaa has his faults, but I’d say he the the patchwork pens defence proved that he is overall effective

      • As the season nears I fear more and more that I’ll accidentally draft Letang in my hockey pool.

    • Duchene is a DOG.

      Olli Maatta is a two time Stanley Cup champion.

      And I love how the self appointed pundits say that Maatta was awful, Daley was awful, Hainsey was awful.

      Newslash: You don’t win Cups with a bunch of awful defenseman.

  8. Olli Maata’s a kid and he is a defence man. With Letang’s injury, the entire Pittsburgh blueline corps was put in a more challenging position. Let’s see what Maata does this year with one more year under his belt and a healthy Letang in the lineup. I like his chances.

  9. So NY traded a guy that averages mid 50’s points per season, plays in all situations making 6.5 per for a guy that really hasn’t shown he can be a #1 center , averages 37 points per year making 5.3? Terrible move by NY. Should have stuck to 1-2 year deal at 4.1 and let him prove he can fill that role. Even if it meant having to slightly overpay him in the future.

    • Liking the Ottawa end to that trade more and more each day!

    • It seems a big famvle on the rangers part.

      • Lol a big “gamble”

        A 2 year old is crawling all over me.

    • This player just turned 24 & is about to bust through. Looked to be doing so before felled by injury last year. 2 years to UFA status.

      Watch & learn.

      This contract is going to look cheap in the very near future.

      • I love how you overrate every single player you talk abou and act like there is a science to player progression.

        37’pointsnper season, does NOT equate to 1st line center, 5.35!per.

        Maybe Miller who has ” never played center in the NHL” can take over 1st line duty!? Lmao

      • Watch and learn? Lol. You really have to stop with this self love thing! “Hall will never be traded, Weber, Subban, Drouin will only be traded for a stud d-man, McPhee didn’t take all the players I’ve suggested,?miller never played center, Nash is a left wing lock,” aye aye aye!!!! I haven’t seen this public much self love since sitting 2 rows behind pee wee Herman in a movie theater!

        Striker on June 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm
        Miller just turned 24, & has never played C in the NHL. Nor will he have to long term but he can. The issue will get addressed in trade or via UFA market.

      • Don’t forget he is 80-90% right in his mind also

  10. Avoiding arbitration were

    Robin Lehner – Buff – 1 year – $4 mil
    Matt Nieto – Col – 1 year – $1 mi
    Mirco Mueller – NJ – 2 years – $850,000 per
    Mika Zibanejad – NYR – 5 years $5.35 mil per

    Also signing with Montreal is Mark Streit – 1 year at $700,000

    • The Streit signing helps MTL’S puck movement. Only slightly, but it still helps

    • Dzingle and pageau avoided as well

      • That was several days ago. The above just happened.