NHL Rumor Mill – July 28, 2017
The latest Montreal Canadiens speculation plus some proposed suitors for college prospect Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports long-time Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov’s decision to play in Russia next season leaves a gaping hole on their blueline. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin now has $8.5 million in salary-cap space, which he wouldn’t have had if he re-signed Markov. Cowan speculates Bergevin could put that money toward addressing his offense, specifically by adding a number-one center via trade.
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels also wonders how Bergevin will use that cap space. “He’s got holes to fill at centre, and Markov’s departure leaves the team in need of a defenceman (or two) that can transition the puck from defence to offence efficiently and contribute on the scoresheet,” write Engels.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman’s Thursday appearance on the NHL Network noting the Habs GM asked Markov to wait until September or October. He thinks Bergevin could be sitting on something big or planning something big with that cap room. “And I’m not necessarily saying that he’s going to do something big, but I think he’s dreaming big.” He feels Bergevin didn’t want to sign Markov until he knew whether he could pull off a significant move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Bergevin is working on something, it probably doesn’t involve an unrestricted free agent. That pool of talent has been largely drained now. If he wants to make an impact move it’ll have to come via trade.
There was speculation he was interested in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Given the Avs’ supposed asking price (young, established top-four defenseman, a first-round draft pick, a top prospect and perhaps more), I don’t believe the Habs GM has sufficient depth to swing that deal.
There was talk last month claiming Bergevin was listening to offers for Alex Galchenyuk before re-signing the 23-year-old to a three-year deal. That would make it easier to trade Galchenyuk for a top-four blueliner but it would hurt their already thin offense.
Bergevin has made significant moves before and could very well be “dreaming big.” However, I doubt those dreams will come to reality before the start of 2017-18.
THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary lists the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs as possible suitors for Colorado Avalanche defense prospect Will Butcher. The 22-year-old University of Denver blueliner is this year’s winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the United States’ top college player. He will become an unrestricted free agent on August 15. O’Leary notes Butcher could be an affordable depth addition for the Blackhawks and Penguins, while he could be a good fit on the rebuilding Leafs.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports Butcher’s agent, Bruce Bartlett, said he and his client would certainly listen if the Penguins came calling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Markov news yesterday, perhaps the Montreal Canadiens could get into the bidding for Butcher’s services? The Blackhawks and Penguins could certainly prove tempting for Butcher. The Leafs need an established top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot, so they might not have much interest in an untested college rearguard who shoots left.