NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2017

by | Aug 7, 2017 | Rumors | 58 comments

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson could be among next summer’s top NHL UFAs.

Reviewing The Sporting News’ early preview of the 2018 class of unrestricted free agents. 

THE SPORTING NEWS: New York Islanders captain John Tavares topped Brandon Schlager’s recent list of next summer’s potential class of NHL unrestricted free agents. Columbus winger Cam Atkinson, Washington defenseman John Carlson, Ottawa center Kyle Turris and Buffalo left wing Evander Kane round out his top five. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind that many of the best players on this list could be re-signed before their UFA eligibility. Of course, much will depend upon their contract demands.

Of the top five, I can see all but Kane could be retained by their current clubs. He’s been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate since last summer and could seek over $6 million annually on his next contract. If the Sabres are out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, they could try to move him.

Tavares’ status has been well-documented. He isn’t a certainty to re-sign but I wouldn’t rule it out. If the Isles can get back on track this season on the ice and with their arena issues, he could stay put. Atkinson, Carlson and Turris play important roles on their respective clubs and I believe every effort will be made to retain those players. 

Toronto left wing James van Riemsdyk, former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk, Calgary center Mikael Backlund, Vegas winger James Neal and New York Rangers winger Rick Nash complete the top ten. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rank the 34-year-old Kovalchuk this high. He’s at best a wild card. Sure, he still puts up terrific numbers in the KHL but it remains to be seen if he can do the same in the NHL after a five-year absence. 

van Riemsdyk’s name frequently surfaced in the rumor mill last season. Depending on the Leafs’ performance this season, He could pop up again in trade speculation throughout 2017-18.

I can see the Flames re-signing Backlund. Vegas could also try to keep Neal in the fold but he could prefer skating with a Cup contender. I think this is Nash’s final season with the Rangers as management shifts its focus toward younger talent. 

Spots 11 through 16 are held by St. Louis center Paul Stastny, Vancouver’s Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Minnesota center Mikko Koivu, Winnipeg center Bryan Little and Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone in this group will likely hit the UFA market except for the Sedins, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they announce their retirements after this season. Stastny’s recent injury history has limited his effectiveness. Koivu turns 35 in March and a decline in his performance is inevitable.

With over $60 million invested in 14 players for 2018-19, the Penguins probably can’t afford to re-sign Hornqvist. Little is an underrated center who could grow weary of the Jets’ mediocrity and opt to test the market. 

Schlager’s “wild cards” include San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Detroit defenseman Mike Green, Toronto center Tyler Bozak, Columbus blueliner Jack Johnson, Islanders center Josh Bailey, Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson and Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Many of the wild cards are over 30 and past their “best before” date. That’s not to suggest they won’t garner any interest if they hit the open market but they won’t receive lucrative contract offers.  Chara’s performance this season could determine if this upcoming season is his last in the NHL. 

His “best of the rest” include Montreal center Tomas Plekanec, Philadelphia forward Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay winger Chris Kunitz, Vancouver defenseman Erik Gudbranson and San Jose winger Joel Ward. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Almost all of the “best of the rest” are fading veterans or younger role players. Several of the latter, such as Gudbranson, could improve their value with bounce-back performances this season. The rest could find it difficult to secure new contracts next summer. 



  1. Bryan Little has said many times he wants to stay in Winnipeg, he is coach Maurice’s most trusted center, and he and Blake Wheeler are best friends. He isn’t going anywhere IMO. Excellent website sir!

    • Yeah, I would easily slide Little into that top ten. One of the more underrated players in the league when you consider how much attention RoR gets. Same with Koivu, he’s quietly had a great career.

    • The part of the statement I agree with is Little is underrated. If anything Little is the model of consistency. This is good and bad, you can bank on Little scoring 20g and somewhere between 42pts with about 54 games played. Unfortunately Little has only played one full season in 11 seasons that was in 13-14 23g and 64pts. His last 3 seasons 59, 57 and 70 games played.
      Little is very important to Winnipeg success and they don’t have anyone else who can step in and take his place. So when he gets injured it puts a lot of extra pressure on Scheifele to help pick up the slack. If there is an area of weakness on the Jets it’s the depth at center. Winnipeg isn’t deep enough to cover the loss of Scheifele or Little for long term success. I believe Winnipeg gets Little signed and has been no hint or speculation of Little wanting out of the Peg.

  2. I wouldn’t mind seeing Nash back on a short term , cap friendly deal. But it appears they are getting ready for life after Lundqvist at this point. At least on paper. So I’d say those chances are slim to none.

    • It seems likely next summer is when the Rangers bring in another keeper to split time with Lundqvist. He looked terribly human last season, although he was pretty great in the playoffs

  3. Putting Neal ahead of Hornqvist is crazy. Penguins won the trade easily. The last few years have shown that Hornqvist is the far more valuable player.

    • They are different animals for sure but Neal was the perfect sniper for Malkin when he played for the Pens. Management just surrounded them with a terrible, horrible, awful bottom 6 which gave them nothing in the playoffs. Hornqvist is frustrating at times because of his inability to carry the puck or make setup passes. Neal was more of a complete player but he was frustrating too because he took stupid penalties. I don’t see the Pens re-signing Hornqvist after this season. If Guentzel continues to be almost a point per game player he’s going to get paid. If Sprong and ZAR can push to make the team out of camp then the Pens will have to move a couple of wingers. Hornqvist, Hagelen and Scott Wilson are the most expendable and one or more may be used to acquire a 3C. Moving Hornqvist to Vegas for William Karlson and either Merril or McNabb makes a lot of sense for both teams. Vegas can flip Horny at the TDL for a first round pick. They have to do something. Right now Carter Rowney is the third best centre on the team unless they plan to play Guentzel there or make ZAR a centre.

      • people tend to forget that management had to navigate the start of the cap while keeping Crosby, malkin, letang, MAF. By necessity they had to put forth a fairly terrible bottom six due to cap restraints. The cap went up as expected reducing the percent of those stars cap hits allowing the team to pay better depth pieces.

        agree neal and horny roughly equal but different style players. neal was a dirty turd though so good riddance.

    • Neal is a superior player to hornquist not to take anything away from horn but Neal is better

      • Pit won 2 cups after the Hornqvist for Neal trade. Does anyone Pit fan care if Neal is better.

      • Only care the kneein Neal was gone

      • Nobody said anything about if Pitts fans cared striker just stating the obvious Neal is better than horny

    • Disagree, Neal is the better player.

      • James Neal is a hot head that takes bad penalties and he showed that last year taking some bad penalties for Nashville in the playoffs… James Neal is more skilled player but Patrick Hornqvist is the better overall player he knows where the front of the net is, can kill penalties, and knows what the concepts of back checking and defense means…

    • Paul no doubt Penguins won that trade Hornqvist is fiery, competitive, talented and a winner. Neal was also good in Nashville…but I’ll take Hornqvist over Neal anytime he means a lot to the Penguins the way he plays..

      • you are speaking in Penguins terms only, where you have the luxury of Malkin, Kessel and Crosby. Most teams need a Neal with Sniper abilities who is still a pretty good defensive player as opposed to a Hornquist. No disrespect to Hornquist but he’s never been a game breaker

    • Neal takes the cake over Hornqvist. Not even a conversation.

      • Jes your dreaming….. Neal is inconsistent, talented yes, but hot headed and well the Predators didn’t even protect him…end pof story

  4. There is a hefty crop of upcoming UFAs, but as in past years I suspect many will be re-signed before they reach that status. Having said that, there are more than a few not mentioned above that I’d put ahead of several among “best of the rest” simply by virtue of their positions (and one, D Calvin de Haan of the NYI, who shoul;d be among the top one listed above):

    Goalies: Jonathan Bernier – Col (he always seems to land somewhere and he won’t be an expensive back-up); Michael Hutchinson – Wpg; Cam Ward – Car (his cap hit, wherever he winds up, won’t be anywhere near what it is now);

    Defence: Kevin Bieksa 0 Ana; Luke Schenn – Ariz; Dan Hamhuis – Dal; Kyle Quincy – Minn; A;exei Emelin – Nash; Yannick weber – Nash; Toby Enstrom – Wpg; Thomas Hickey – NYI; Ian Cole – Pit;

    Centres: Andrew Cogliano – Ana; Matt Stajan – Cgy; Lars Eller – Wash; (all decent 4th liners);

    There are also a few wingers who will attract attention IF they reach UFA status – Brad Richardson – Ariz; Antoine Roussel – Dal; Lee Stempniak – Car (isn’t he always among the first to be plucked off a UFA list?); Matt Calvert – CBJ; Nikolai Kulemin – NYI; Radim Vrbata – Fla; Leo Komarov – Tor

    • Nice additions George.
      I actually quiet like the article all around. It breaks up the players nicely into obvious game changers, role players and wild cards who can be high risk high reward.

      • One in particular I’d love to see come to Ottawa is Komarov. This is the perfect type of 3rd line winger with decent size, who plays with an edge while chalking up 14 goals and 18 assists. And capable of filling in on the top lines here and there when required.

        But I’m sure Lamoriello isn’t about to let him get away, although how much more than his current almost $3 mil cap hit it will cost (and for how long? – he turns 31 next Jan) – and how that will impact the negotiations with Nylander next year and Matthews and Marner the following year, remains to be seen.

        Of course, Lupul and his $5,250,000 and Fehr and his $2 mil are gone, and if they deal JVR $4,250,000) and Bozak ($4,200,000) and depending upon what the salaries are of the players traded for, they should have plenty to re-sign Komarov.

    • de Haan would be very high on any UFA list I might compile as well. Still 2 years from being fully developed & now NYI’s #3. Weird Snow didn’t get him locked up.

      Little is a solid 2 way C. A notch below the leagues best but the type of C that can play any role & helps you win games. He’s easily in my toip 10.

      • I’m sure Tavares is keeping a close eye on that as well. Love to know what De Haan and his agent were seeking as opposed to what he got for one year.

        Giving him 1 year at 3.3 mil and allowing him to become a UFA just 1 year later certainly raises questions about Snow’s “tactics.”

    • Taz who scored the game winning goal in the 6th game of the Stanley Cup finals with a minute plus left to make it 1-0 Hornqvist…he is a winner…there is a difference between a game breaker and a winner….

      both have been successful but if neal was so good why didn’t Nashville protect him?

      glad you asked he is expendable….

  5. I was surprised Washington didn’t move Lars Eller and buy out Orpik to free up more Cap space. If they lose John Carlson a year after losing Alzner they are in big trouble. The rest of the metro is closing the gap on Washington.

    • A recent article on Leo Komarov suggested that, in addition to his on – ice skills, his ability to speak four languages – English, Russian, Swedish and Finnish – is good reason to keep him with the Leafs, now that several European prospects are close to NHL – ready. He can be a good link between Mike Babcock and the young players. They don’t call him Uncle Leo for nothing.

      • Didn’t know that about his linguistic abilities or the fact teammates call him “Uncle Leo.” All in all the kind of role player you definitely want to keep around.

      • I would think Leo would be open to signing another 3 year deal worth between $3.25 and $3.7. It would suck to lose him because we decided to give $2.5M to Martin.
        If Martin was exposed at the expansion draft we could have still had Leipsic, the best LW in the farm system.

    • Washington’s salary structure is closing the gap in the Metro faster than others improving. They are getting worse, gone are Williams, Alzner & Johansson due to cap issues. Lost in expansion Schmidt & no salary to replace them.

  6. This summer has been so boring, as was not predicted by all the pundits, that I guess all we can do is look right past an upcoming exciting season and into next summer. The Sedins should have been traded long ago! I don’t mean that comment to be negative; however, they won’t win anything in Vancouver at this point and Vancouver won’t win anything with them on the team. They are a class act and should be given the chance to go elsewhere; I know they probably don’t want to but trade them anyway and when they see a chance to win they will only thank Vancouver for it. I just don’t agree with all the nostalgia that goes along with players like the Sedins. Move on!

    • Steven, but wait until the JT to Toronto rumors pick up.

      • Half of these players from the list is going to Toronto

      • I know Caper, and they will! The Leafs do not need JT!

    • Yep. Agree completely. One thing there is NO place for in pro sports – where the bottom lines are constantly improving and winning – is “sentiment.”

      The comment “nice guys finish last” has been attributed to famed baseball manager Leo Durocher and, he did say that in so many words. When asked by reporters about being a “nice guy” he replied “Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.”

  7. Chara will sign I 2yr contract with Boston as long as it not over $4m per. the expectation and where he is slotted and the demands put on him shouldn’t be that of a number 1 or 2 dman.

    • Another one of those signings Caper a la Sedin that don’t work in sports. See George O’s post regarding first place and nice guys.

  8. Nah, there going to the habs! Best team in the east, plus….the farm is stacked for years to come

    • As Sheldon Cooper would ask “sarcasm right?”

      • Only a leaf fan would make a comment like that about a team that has beat them 14 straight times! Lol

      • Knock,knock
        Knock, knock

        You get it!

      • Actually it’s knock knock knock – as he explained it he learned that after walking in on his father in bed with a mistress. He then always did 3 knocks – one to alert those inside, one to confirm that someone is knocking, and the third to give his father time to put on his pants.

  9. A good group of Centers potential available on UFA next year.



    Which have possibility of being available at trade deadline?
    Tavares if Isles are well out and if he tells Snow he is likely not coming back.

    Turris or Little or Thornton if they are out of the playoffs. Does Thornton’s one year deal have a NTC? I see the 3 teams above being in the mix for wild card spots so likely will not be sellers.

    It would be interesting if the Sedins were open to go to playoff team at trade deadline. Not many teams could look at bringing both on board. Be cool if they each went to a separate contender… some brotherly competition on who can win a cup. If this is actually their last year why not?

    The other centers I suspect will be resigned or team is solidly in playoffs they will not be sellers. A few key injuries can devastate a season so who knows.

    • Again! Next year!

  10. Turris and Little are very similar and valuable players.

  11. gotta disagree lyle.. I see Kovy returning and out goal scoring Atkinson, nash, neal, turris, and backlund. goal scoring isn’t everything all these players can provide fo sho, but kovy will pot over thirty is my guess… not sure any of the above hit thirty.

    • In his last 4 KHL seasons he’s scored 16 in 45; 25 in 54; 16 in 50; 32 in 60. So, 89 goals in 209 KHL games. Not bad totals but since the KHL is barely above the AHL in overall calibre, how does that translate into “over 30” in the much tighter-checking NHL? And how much has his game changed in those 4 years? Unless you’ve seen a lot of KHL games there’s no way to assess that and flat out state that he will score over 30.

      A good comparison might be Alexander Radulov who had 4 KHL seasons of 22 in 48; 9 in 25; 24 in 46 and 23 in 42 for 78 goals in 161 KHL games. And this season had a decent year but with 18 goals. And he’s 3 years younger than Kovalchuk.

      Depending upon how much a team forks over for Kovalchuk, that might well be caveat emptor.

      • nice George…..solid back up argument to your point there

      • Well, after all, a 36 y/o named Sergei Mozyakim scored 48 goals and 37 assists for 85 points to lead the KHL last season, some 7 points more than Kovalchuk (32 goals – 46 assists – 78 points). Right behind Ilya was Vadim Shipachev with 26 goals – 50 assists for 76 points. Hell, a 37 y/o Canadian named Chris Lee finished 6th in scoring with 14 goals – 51 assists 0 65 points.

        So, a “development league” it ain’t as compared to the AHL.

      • By comparison the top point-getter in the AHL was 25 y/o LO Kenny Agostino with 24 goals – 59 assists 83 pts while the top goal scorer was 27 y/o C Wade Megan who potted 33. Both played for the Chicago Wolves and had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Blues. We likely won’t ever see either as mainstays in the NHL.

      • panarin never topped thirty in khl for examaple. the larger ice isnt always conducive to more scoring but less. I am also basing my conclusion on Kovy getting to pick his team essentially and that will determine what depth he has in linemates. my prediction may be well off but i’m calling 30+ for kovy if he returns.

      • KHL is below AHL calibre.
        Bush league IMO

      • Clear engineering out! We have a coolant leak!

  12. If I had to put money down on a landing sport for John Tavares, I’m going to make an off the board pick and say the St. Louis Blues.

    Tavares is that #1 center they have been lacking and have lots of great wingers to play him with. I think a 1st line of Schwartz – Tavares – Tarasenko could be deadly.

    Furthermore, Paul Stastny’s contract comes to an end so that alone free’s up $7.5 mill.

    The two biggest obstacles are:

    A) Tavares wanting to commit long term to the Blues. While it’s not impossible, Armstrong would really have to sell him on the long term future of the club.

    B) Assuming Tavares accepts an annual average of at the minimum of $10 mill per season, they would need to free up some cap space as they’ll have to re-sign the likes of Edmundson, Brodziack, and Hutton.

    It might be a long shot, but I think it would be very interesting to see if the Blues make a huge push for him.

    • The history the Blues have to offer is 0 cups in half a century since joining the league in 1967. Only one other team has gone that long without a cup. Meanwhile, the Islanders can at least point to 4 in a row, albeit 34 years since their last one.

      • I can think of at least two George 😉

      • 50 years? Which two? Of the original 6, LA, Pitt, Pha all have won cups. The California Seals became the Cleveland Barons in 1976 and in 1978 they folded and were merged with another ’67 expansion team, the Minnesota North Stars, who then became the Dallas Stars – who have since won a cup.

        So, which two other teams haven’t won since 1967?

  13. One thing for sure, it’s going to be a very interesting deadline day this year!! A lot of good rentals available depending on who’s buyers or sellers