NHL Rumor Mill – July 31, 2017
Updates on the Penguins, Rangers and Golden Knights in your NHL Rumor Mill.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz reports the recent re-signings of Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary leave the Pittsburgh Penguins with just over $3 million in salary-cap room. The focus now shifts to bolstering their checking-line depth at center. Given the limited options available via free agency, Gretz believes Penguins general manger Jim Rutherford will have to explore the trade market.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports Rutherford said knowing how much cap space he has left after re-signing Dumoulin and Sheary makes him more willing to trade for a third-line center.
Mackey notes the Penguins have $3.28 million in cap space, which doesn’t leave much room for UFA Matt Cullen if the 40-year-old decides to return plus leave a $1 million cushion for 2017-18. However, Rutherford doesn’t anticipate having to send out much salary to bring in a third liner. Mackey said that means they don’t have to trade someone like Olli Maatta if they don’t want to.
Rutherford tells Mackey there’s been more talk in the trade market now than there was earlier in the month. He also said he’s spoken with Cullen but the veteran center still hasn’t reached a decision yet on whether he’ll return for one more season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this month, speculation linked the Penguins to Colorado’s Matt Duchene ($6 million annually) and Toronto’s Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million). However, it sounds like Rutherford seeks affordable options worth less than $2 million. Rutherford could target teams looking to shed some salary. He could also wait until training camp to see if the market opens up.
Cullen earned $1 million last season and I daresay he’ll get the same from the Pens if he decides to return.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently observed depth at center could be an issue for the New York Rangers. Mika Zibanejad will be expected to take over the first-line center role previously held by Derek Stepan, who was traded last month to Arizona. Kevin Hayes could move up to the second-line center spot, David Desharnais could become their third-line pivot and the fourth line spot could be decided in training camp. New York Post columnist Larry Brooks recently suggested the Rangers pursue Toronto’s Tyler Bozak.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks suggested the Rangers offer up defenseman Nick Holden for Bozak, who’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. However, t’s doubtful the Leafs are keen to make that swap. The Leafs could use a little more experienced depth on defense but not at the expense of moving Bozak this year.
I think the Leafs and Rangers will wait for training camp and preseason to fully evaluate their respective rosters before deciding if they need to make additional moves via trade. Even then, it’ll likely take more than Holden to pry Bozak away from the Leafs this year.
Fox also speculated that Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee will likely shop veteran forwards David Perron and James Neal at next year’s trade deadline for draft picks, preferably second round selections.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perron and Neal are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. If they enjoy playing in Vegas and perform well for the Golden Knights, McPhee could try to re-sign one or both. But if they’re keen to test the UFA market, I agree with Fox’s assessment that they’ll be shopped for picks.