NHL Rumor Mill – August 17, 2017
Latest on the Penguins plus an update on Will Butcher in your NHL rumor mill.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE/PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: With center Matt Cullen signing with the Minnesota Wild, Sam Werner and Jonathan Bombulie looked at the Penguins plans to address their checking-line depth at center.
Werner reports Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said his search for a third-line center could stretch into training camp and possibly even the upcoming season. Short-term options in lieu of a trade include moving Jake Guentzel to center or employing Scott Wilson in that role.
Rutherford also said he hasn’t seen any change yet in the trade market but that could improve during training camp. He said there were “a couple of guys” he could acquire “right now” but prefers to wait and see how things shake out.
Bombulie reports Rutherford is comfortable with Carter Rowney taking over the fourth-line center spot. He also notes the Penguins GM has around $3.2 million in salary-cap space to use in bringing in a third-line center if necessary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford didn’t indicate who those “couple of guys” are that he’s could acquire. The fact he prefers to wait and see how things progress during training camp or perhaps into the season suggests he wants to see if better options might become available.
There was speculation earlier this summer linking the Penguins to Colorado’s Matt Duchene ($6 million annual cap hit through 2018-19) and Toronto’s Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million cap hit and a UFA next summer), but he’s rejected the notion of pursuing expensive options. Given his salary-cap constraints, I don’t see either guy joining the Pens unless Rutherford can clear sufficient cap space without giving up a quality player in return.
POST-GAZETTE: Werner also reports Rutherford confirmed the Penguins will pursue former Colorado Avalanche prospect defenseman Will Butcher. The 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner became an unrestricted free agent on August 15.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks have not contacted Butcher or former New Jersey Devils forward Alex Kerfoot. Powers speculates the Hawks lack of interest in those two suggests they want to give their currently signed young players an opportunity this season.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith reports the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t among the early suitors for Butcher. He speculates that could be because they have a glut of defensemen. “Victor Hedman, Slater Koekkoek and Braydon Coburn are also left shot defensemen expected to be on the team.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Butcher’s agent already indicated his client will be meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights. I daresay he’ll be open to speaking with the defending Stanley Cup champions.