NHL Rumor Mill – March 15, 2018
Updates on the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
NUGENT-HOPKINS FOR HOFFMAN?
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector suggests Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be auditioning for both his club and the Ottawa Senators. He notes Senators general manager Pierre Dorion took in his second straight Oilers game, while Nugent-Hopkins played his third straight game on Connor McDavid’s wing.
Spector speculates if Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan decide Nugent-Hopkins isn’t suited for McDavid’s line, they could decide Senators winger Mike Hoffman could be. If so, he feels Nugent-Hopkins’ $6-million annual salary has to be part of the deal, as the Sens won’t take Milan Lucic’s contract off the Oilers’ hands. That move could be tough for the Oilers to swallow, “unless you get a little something more in the deal and Hoffman comes in and scores 35.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: First, for those of you who still confuse me with “cousin Mark”, we’re not the same person nor are we related.
Anyway, Hoffman was linked at times to the Oilers prior to the recent trade deadline, and as Mark observes, Chiarelli has mused over the problem of having over $27 million invested in three centers (RHN, McDavid and Draisaitl). Nugent-Hopkins also surfaced in trade chatter over the past two years, but his performance this season was among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 2017-18 campaign for the Oilers. That could make them reluctant to move him unless they get a great return.
Hoffman has a slightly more affordable contract (nearly $5.2 million annually through 2019-20) than the Oilers’ center ($6 million per season through 2020-21), but the latter is nearly four years younger than the 28-year-old Senators winger. That could make him a little more attractive for the Senators.
For now, of course, this is all merely conjecture. Dorion could be interested in Nugent-Hopkins, especially if he can be effectively employed as a center or a winger. Then again, the Senators play the Oilers next Thursday, which could explain Dorion’s scouting trip. Perhaps he’s looking at a different Oiler. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently reported there’s a belief Edmonton was showcasing defenseman Oscar Klefbom despite a nagging shoulder injury that will soon require season-ending surgery.
BUSY SUMMER COMING FOR THE RANGERS?
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites TSN insider Bob McKenzie’s appearance yesterday on the NHL Network discussing possible off-season moves by the New York Rangers. He thinks they’ll sit down with head coach Alain Vigneault to discuss his feelings about being part of a rebuild. He still has two years remaining on his contract. They’ll also have to decide if he’s the right guy or if they need a new voice behind the bench. McKenzie also notes long-time Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is “all-in” with the rebuild and doesn’t want to go anywhere.
Even though Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is rebuilding, McKenzie doesn’t rule out the possibility that he could sign one or two unrestricted free agents, such as former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk or former Rangers Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, if they’re willing to accept short-term deals. He also suggests the Rangers could look at pursuing Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Vigneault wants to stay I don’t think the Rangers will replace him. One bad season isn’t justification to replace him. Forget about Lundqvist being moved. He wants to stay and Cap Friendly indicates he has a full no-movement clause.
Maybe Gorten will pursue a UFA or two, though I think it best to look beyond aging stars such as Kovalchuk and Nash toward younger options. If Washington’s John Carlson hits the open market, the Rangers should seriously consider signing him.
As for Karlsson, why blow your brains out in a huge trade that could significantly weaken your roster and prospect depth when you could have a shot at signing him next year as a UFA? Sure, the latter option is expensive contract-wise, but at least you haven’t given up other assets to get him.