NHL Rumor Mill – January 1, 2018
Happy new year, hockey rumor fans! Here’s my analysis of several bold NHL trade and free-agent predictions for 2018.
BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR 2018
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently made some bold NHL predictions for 2018. Topping the list is his expectation the Ottawa Senators will trade defenseman Erik Karlsson, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019 and is expected to seek top dollar. While Fox doubts Karlsson gets dealt before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, he’ll be surprised if the Senators captain plays out the remainder of his contract in Ottawa.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At some point this year, Karlsson and the Sens front office will have a serious discussion about his role in the club’s future plans. The two sides cannot officially open contract talks until July 1 but they can chat about broader issues. Like Fox, I don’t see Karlsson being moved at the trade deadline but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s dealt at some point during the summer. Karlsson’s given a lot to the Senators and clearly enjoys playing in Ottawa but he’ll seek fair compensation. The chance to play for a Cup contender could also be important to him.
With the salary cap expected to rise significantly (between $3 million to $7 million) for 2018-19, Fox predicts the Toronto Maple Leafs will re-sign pending UFA left wing James van Riemsdyk, perhaps for a slight discount. He also expects they’ll land one or two decent rental defensemen by the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could cost the Leafs $6 million annually on a long-term deal to retain JvR. How that fits into their salary-cap plans – when they’ll have to pay superstar Auston Matthews and youngsters such as William Nylander and Mitch Marner – could become a headache for management, especially if they go shopping for a top-pairing defenseman this summer.
Shea Weber will become the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens as current captain Max Pacioretty will be among the biggest pieces moved.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Canadiens trade Pacioretty, they’ll do so in the offseason, perhaps during the NHL draft weekend in late June. And if that happens, I agree that Weber will take over the captaincy.
John Tavares will stay with the New York Islanders, re-signing an eight-year extension before his UFA eligibility on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. It’ll be expensive, perhaps $11 million annually but I believe he stays put.
Fox doesn’t anticipate the high-flying Vegas Golden Knights will sell their notable pending UFAs such as James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault or David Perron by the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights have exceeded expectations this season. With the club looking like a serious playoff contender, I don’t believe management will be in sell mode. It’s possible they could also become buyers if management decides to bolster their playoff chances by landing an affordable rental player or two.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski predicts John Tavares will test the unrestricted free agent market but ultimately returns to the Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tavares could gauge the market for offers that he can leverage for a bigger contract from the Isles. As I noted earlier, I believe he won’t be going anywhere.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson will become this summer’s most coveted unrestricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carlson, who turns 28 on Jan. 10, is a skilled right-shot defenseman in his playing prime. Once John Tavares re-signs with the Isles, he will definitely become the best player available in this summer’s UFA market.