NHL Rumor Mill – April 20, 2018
Latest John Tavares speculation plus an update on the Vancouver Canucks in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent breakdown of the New York Islanders’ unrestricted free agents, Arthur Staple said there’s chatter around the league the “magic number” to sign John Tavares is $88 million (roughly $12.6-million) on a seven-year contract or around $100-million on an eight-year deal if the Isles re-sign him.
If Tavares gets to the five-day window between the NHL Draft and July 1 when he can speak to other clubs, Staple believes the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres could be interested in the center’s services.
Staple considers the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights as the standouts. The Sharks have the cap space and winning pedigree that could entice Tavares, while the Golden Knights made a big pitch at the trade deadline for Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and could use a big star to cement itself as more than a one-hit wonder.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited Elliotte Friedman’s Tuesday appearance on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 discussing the possibility of Vancouver native Evander Kane re-signing with the San Jose Sharks. Noting the Sharks have over $20 million in salary-cap space for next season, Friedman said they could also keep an eye on Tavares’ free-agent status. He suggested they have the cap room to sign both players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Tavares doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders, I believe he’ll want to join a club that can not only afford his expensive new contract but also provide him with the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup. That rules out all on Staple’s list but the Sharks and Golden Knights. I don’t believe Tavares will disrespect the Isles by signing with their hated rival. The Blues, Wings, Canucks, Canadiens, Senators, Coyotes and Sabres are retooling or rebuilding. Having gone through enough of that with the Islanders, Tavares could be reluctant to repeat that experience elsewhere. The Panthers and Hurricanes are on the cusp of becoming playoff contenders but Tavares might prefer a team that can win now.
The Sharks could have over $25 million in cap room if the ceiling rises as projected to $80 million for next season. After re-signing restricted free agents Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo they’ll have plenty of cap room to sign Tavares and Kane, but I think the preference could be one or the other so as to ensure there’s sufficient long-term cap room for future moves.
THE ATHLETIC: In his recent eight-point plan for the Vancouver Canucks to make the most of this offseason, JD Burke suggested they “weaponize” their salary-cap space by targeting teams with prospect depth in need of shedding salary. He thinks the Dallas Stars could seek someone to take the final season of center Jason Spezza’s contract ($7.5-million cap hit) off their hands, or the Washington Capitals could look for a trade partner for the final year of defenseman Brooks Orpik’s $5.5- million cap charge, or the Tampa Bay Lightning might seek a taker for the final two years of winger Ryan Callahan’s $5.8-million annual price tag.
Burke also suggested the Canucks make a bold move, like perhaps trading restricted free agent winger Sven Baertschi “before he takes them to the cleaners for a contract that won’t move them any closer to contention.” He would also be surprised if defenseman Ben Hutton is still with the Canucks when training camp opens in September, though he doubts the blueliner will have much trade value. He thinks it’s in their best interest to move rearguard Chris Tanev for futures. Burke also wondered if they can convince defenseman Alex Edler to waive his no-movement clause to accept a trade to a Stanley Cup contender.
THE PROVINCE: Jason Botchford also speculated the Canucks might use Baertschi as a trade chip this season. Noting general manager Jim Benning’s suggesting he might look at re-signing the winger to a one-year deal, Botchford thinks that could set up the Canucks to move him at the trade deadline.
Ben Kuzma reports Hutton is determined to return strong next season and prove his critics wrong. His agent, Andy Scott, said his client hasn’t asked to be traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the retirement of the Sedins, Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have over $51 million invested in 16 players next season. Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher and Derrick Pouliot are their notable restricted free agents. There’s plenty of room to take on an expensive one- or two-year contract of an aging veteran from a rival club if they can also get a top prospect or a high draft pick included in the deal. Spezza has a 10-team no-trade list, Callahan’s no-movement clause becomes a modified no-trade on July 1 and Orpik lacks no-trade protection. Of the three, Orpik would probably be the easiest to acquire.
I agree with Botchford’s take that Baertschi could get shopped at next season’s trade deadline. Hutton, however, could be dealt to a new club by the end of June. Tanev’s come up a lot in Canucks trade speculation but they seem reluctant to move him. That could change, however, if they can grow their blueline depth over the course of next season.