NHL Rumor Mill – March 9, 2018
Update on the Carolina Hurricanes plus the latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ilya Kovalchuk in your NHL rumor mill.
HURRICANES MANAGEMENT SEARCH
TSN: Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger weighed in on the potential candidates for the now-vacant position of Carolina Hurricanes general manager. LeBrun believes we could hear “some of the usual candidates” over the next couple of weeks, listing ” Julien BriseBois in Tampa Bay, Paul Fenton in Nashville, Laurence Gilman – the former Canucks assistant GM, Dave Nonis, Tom Fitzgerald, Ryan Martin” to name a few.
Dreger said it sounds like having an analytics background could prove helpful for potential candidates. He suggested that could bring Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas into the equation, though there’s some who believe he could become the Leafs next general manager.
SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman reported Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon revealed his club looked at adding to their roster in February but it didn’t go well. He and then-GM Ron Francis decided the cost “in terms of Carolina’s best young players/prospects, was too great.” Friedman feels the fact the Hurricanes can’t make immediate moves is probably a good thing. He thinks Dundon’s desire to make an impactful move could be exploited by rival general managers.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu sees the drama unfolding in Carolina as a unique opportunity for the Montreal Canadiens. He believes the Hurricanes have two things the Canadiens’ desperately need in “a young, promising centre that is on the verge of reaching the NHL in 19-year-old Martin Necas” and “a wealth of depth in young defencemen, starting with 21-year-old Noah Hanifin and, to a lesser extent, Jake Bean.”
With Ron Francis out of the picture, Basu suggests the Habs pursue a deal for Hanifin, perhaps by offering up left wing Max Pacioretty. If the Habs want to make a bigger splash by getting a better haul from the Hurricanes, he proposes offering up goaltender Carey Price, though he acknowledges Price’s upcoming expensive new contract and no-movement clause are significant stumbling blocks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay we’ll probably see more speculation in the coming weeks over possible deals involving the Hurricanes by rivals hoping to take advantage of their current management situation. The earliest anything could take place is likely in the days leading up to the 2018 NHL Draft (June 22-23). Before the Hurricanes get into wheeling and dealing, they must find a suitable replacement for Francis. Once we know who that is, we’ll have a better idea of what moves they could make.
MONEY NOT A FREE-AGENT ENTICEMENT FOR EKMAN-LARSSON.
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports money alone won’t be the determining factor in the free-agent plans of Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019, but the 26-year-old blueliner insists he’s happy playing for the Coyotes. “It’s just money. It’s not going to make you happier,” said Ekman-Larsson. “It might make your life a little bit easier but it’s not going to make you happier. I feel if you’re around good people, that’s what makes you happy. I feel like I have that here. This is where I want to be.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, Ekman-Larsson has a year remaining on his six-year, $33-million contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. In actual salary, he’s earning $6.5 million this season and will earn $7 million in 2018-19. I don’t think he’s worried about how much he’ll get on his next deal. The Coyotes could offer up to $8.5-million annually on a front-loaded deal. If he tests the open market, he could get much more than that. As MacIntyre indicates, Ekman-Larsson’s future could come down to how comfortable he feels in Arizona, as well as his confidence in the club’s direction under GM John Chayka.
KOVALCHUK TO THE RANGERS?
TSN: Pierre LeBrun speculates it’s possible former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk could sign this summer with the New York Rangers. He believes the Rangers had showed some mild interest in a sign-and-trade deal last summer for Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils, who still held the winger’s rights. He’s heard the Rangers could revisit that interest in signing the winger when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and play him on a line with recently acquired Vladislav Namestnikov. “Yeah the Rangers are rebuilding but they still have to sell tickets so that’s a possibility,” said LeBrun.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to hear what the New York scribes think of this. Adding the soon-to-be 35-year-old Kovalchuk, who last played in the NHL in 2013, would be an odd move. It was understandable a year ago, when the Rangers still saw themselves as a potential Cup contender. Not so now when they’re in rebuild mode.
With all due respect to LeBrun, I don’t think the Rangers need Kovalchuk to help them sell tickets. Most of their fans have bought into the rebuilding process. I don’t rule out the possibility they could bring in a veteran or two, but I think they’d prefer those who can be part of the club’s future for more than a season or two.