NHL Rumor Mill – March 27, 2018
Updates on John Carlson and Ilya Kovalchuk plus the latest Chicago Blackhawks speculation in your NHL rumor mill.
CARLSON NOT GETTING MUCH BUZZ IN THE RUMOR MILL
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Pierre LeBrun’s appearance Monday on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 discussing this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. While acknowledging the growing speculation regarding Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsyk and New York Islanders center John Tavares, he was surprised Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson isn’t attracting much attention.
LeBrun noted there was considerably more buzz last year at this time surrounding blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. Carlson, on the other hand, is putting together a strong performance this season and LeBrun doesn’t know if the Capitals can afford to re-sign him. He feels Carlson, a top-four rearguard with a right-handed shot, could become the best defenseman to hit the open market since Ryan Suter back in 2012.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nichols points out one reason behind all the Shattenkirk buzz last year was largely due to his being a fixture in the trade-rumor mill prior to be dealt by the St. Louis Blues to the Washington Capitals. Another was the New York and Toronto media kept up a steady drumbeat linking Shattenkirk to the Rangers before and after last year’s trade deadline.
In Carlson’s case, he and Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan have been largely quiet over the status of the defenseman’s contract status. As per Cap Friendly, the Capitals have over $63 million invested in 15 players for 2018-19. Carlsson could command over $7 million per season, pushing the Caps payroll to over $70 million.
However, there are projections the salary-cap ceiling to rise to over $80 million for next season, giving Washington some much-needed cap room to retain Carlson and re-sign or replace their other free agents. It’s possible they could free up an additional $3 million by buying out the final season of Brooks Orpik’s contract.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers looked at what areas the Chicago Blackhawks could try to address in the offseason. While they could add another experienced forward, Powers feels there’s sufficient depth up front if everyone plays to their potential. Defense, however, is another matter. He notes many believe the Hawks must go out and get a top-four defenseman. If starting goaltender Corey Crawford (concussion symptoms) remains questionable to return to action next season, Bowman could also explore the goalie market.
Their salary-cap payroll could be an issue, as their cap hit would be around $75 million if they assembled a roster of returning players. Powers suggests trading away the contract of sidelined winger Marian Hossa. Failing that, they’ll have to place him on long-term injured reserve again. He expects general manager Stan Bowman will make some trades this summer, perhaps to improve the blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Bowman’s priority will be trying to improve the defense corps. With over $69 million invested in 19 players for next season, it won’t be easy to add to the roster, though a possible cap increase to $82 million will certainly help them.
Trading Hossa’s contract, however, will require a sweetener, like a first-round pick or a top prospect. If sufficient cap room can be found I believe Bowman will use it to bring in a top-four rearguard. Of course, if Crawford’s future remains questionable, the priority becomes finding a decent starting goaltender.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk “becomes an unrestricted free agent upon turning 35 on April 15 and does not have to wait until the pre-July 1 interview period to talk with NHL suitors. Kovalchuk can negotiate with clubs and reach an agreement in principle but cannot sign a contract until July 1.”