NHL Rumor Mill – April 10, 2018
Updates on the Rangers, Golden Knights,Stars and Red Wings in your NHL rumor mill.
COULD RANGERS SIGN KOVALCHUK, PURSUE KARLSSON OR TAVARES?
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie’s appearance Monday on Montreal’s TSN 690 discussing the New York Rangers’ offseason plans. Regarding a report yesterday claiming former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk is set to sign a two-three year deal with the Blueshirts, McKenzie points out he’s not technically a free agent until April 15, after which he’s free to sign with any club. It’s assumed Kovalchuk will sign with New York but not a certainty, plus he can’t technically sign until July 1. McKenzie doesn’t believe the winger will get a three-year deal from the Rangers, as he thinks they prefer a one-year contract. The two sides could settle on a two-year deal.
McKenzie also said that the Rangers rebuild doesn’t mean they’re tearing everything down to the ground. While they will promote younger talent, they also want to be competitive. He thinks they could get into the bidding for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson if he’s put on the trade block this summer. If New York Islanders star John Tavares test the free-agent market, McKenzie doesn’t doubt they’ll try to sign him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gorton declined to comment about Kovalchuk, saying he can’t talk about another team’s player. As noted by the New York Post, doing so before April 15 would constitute tampering. Kovalchuk could have an agreement in principle on a contract with the Rangers, or another NHL team, on Apr. 15.
As for Karlsson, pursuing him could cost the Rangers one or two of their most promising players plus a couple of their first-round draft picks. I think they’ll look at the free agent market or more affordable trade options.
They could try to sign Tavares if he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but I don’t think he’d disrespect the Islanders by signing with their hated rival. Sure, it’s possible, but I just don’t see doing that.
LATEST ON NEAL AND PERRON
SPORTSNET (VIA KUKLA’S KORNER): During Saturday’s “Headlines” segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Nick Kypreos said the Vegas Golden Knights don’t have enough money to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents James Neal and David Perron. He said talks have cooled down with Neal and speculates Perron could be re-signed as he’d be cheaper than Neal.
As Kypreos observed, both players played key roles in the Golden Knights’ success. However, Neal’s production declined since late-January, with only three goals and 10 points in his last 24 regular-season games. Granted, he was hampered in part by a hand injury and an illness, but that decline could be a factor in his contract talks. Perron, meanwhile, finished third in team scoring with a career-high 66 points in 70 games. If given the choice, Perron could be the more affordable option.
With over $47.4 million invested in 18 players, Vegas had plenty of cap room to re-sign both players, but they might not be keen to spend toward what could be an $80-million ceiling in just their second NHL season. They could also prefer keeping cap space open to chase a big-ticket player, such as Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson or the Islanders’ John Tavares, this summer. via trade or free agency.
UPDATE ON THE STARS
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: During a recent live chat, Mike Heika was asked who were his top-three players most likely to depart the Dallas Stars this summer. “I would say Kari Lehtonen, Jason Spezza and Antoine Roussel,” said Heika. “I think they need a new back-up goalie, that Spezza just isn’t a fit anymore, and that Roussel will probably find a better deal elsewhere.”
Lehtonen and Roussell are unrestricted free agents while Spezza has a year remaining on his contract. If the Stars are to trade Spezza, they’ll have to absorb half of his $7.5-million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A team could take a chance on Spezza on a $3.75-million contract, but the significant decline in the 34-year-old’s performance this season could still make him tough to move. A contract buyout could be a more likely option. Cap Friendly indicates they’ll get $5 million in cap savings next season.
COULD THE WINGS TRADE ATHANASIOU?
MLIVE.COM: During a recent live chat, Ansar Khan was asked about the possibility of the Wings making an impactful trade for a top-tier defenseman by peddling winger Andreas Athanasiou and a second-round draft pick to the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba. Khan doesn’t know if the Jets would move Trouba or if they’ll have any interest in Athanasiou but he wouldn’t be surprised if the Wings tried to trade the winger in the offseason or next season.
Despite Athanasiou’s upside, Khan noted his compete level was inconsistent and wondered if that will change. Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer and doesn’t expect the Wings will have a problem signing him this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou could be dealt at some point for a blueliner, but I don’t see him as a fit with a Jets roster already chock-full of speedy young forwards. Assuming the Jets shop Trouba, whose previous contract negotiations got contentious before he was signed to a two-year deal, it’ll take more than Athanasiou and a second rounder to land him.