NHL Rumor Mill – April 21, 2018
Latest on the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WILD?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports scoring depth and the power play was a problem throughout this season for the Minnesota Wild, who were bounced from the opening round of the 2018 playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets. She also noted general manager Chuck Fletcher faces an uncertain future. His contract expires at the end of this season and the club has failed to advance beyond the second round over the past six seasons. Considering the plethora of injuries the club endured this season, perhaps Fletcher will get another chance.
Kaplan also believes the Wild roster must continue to get younger. Re-signing restricted free agents Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker should be no-brainers.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo also wondered about Fletcher’s future with the Wild. While team owner Craig Leipold was happy with the way the Wild’s regular-season ended, their ghastly finish against the Jets could make him think twice about re-signing Fletcher. Even if he returns as general manager, Fletcher will have to be give an honest evaluation to a roster that isn’t good enough to get past the top teams in the Central Division (Winnipeg and Nashville) or advance beyond the second round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of who’s in the Wild general manager’s chair, transitioning toward younger talent won’t be easy. Cap Friendly indicates they’ve got over $67 million invested in 22 players for next season. Re-signing Dumba and Zucker could push that to $77 million. Over $22 million is tied up in aging veterans Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, who also carry full no-movement clauses. They’ll likely free up additional cap space by attempting to trade Tyler Ennis ($4.6 million) or buying out the final season of his contract.
Younger forwards Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle are supposed to be part of the Wild’s core but they were held scoreless by the Jets. If a roster shakeup occurs this summer it could involve one of those guys. The Montreal Canadiens were reportedly interested in Coyle leading up to the trade deadline.
UPDATES ON THE KINGS AND DUCKS
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Chris Zupke reports Kings GM Rob Blake said re-signing defenseman Drew Doughty is his top priority this summer. The 28-year-old blueliner is a year away from qualifying for unrestricted free agent status but the Kings can open contract extension talks with him on July 1. Doughty insists he “always wanted to be an L.A. King and I want to stay an L.A. King.” Zupke notes a new contract for Doughty, who could command far more than his current $7-million annual salary, could impact the Kings’ roster flexibility.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek also reported on Doughty’s desire to stay with the Kings and their hope of re-signing the Norris Trophy nominee. He speculates it could take a deal similar to that of teammate Anze Kopitar (eight years, $10-million annually) to get it done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Doughty’s contract status will be of considerable interest in this summer’s rumor mill. The longer he goes without a contract extension after July 1, the more speculation over his future with the Kings. If they re-sign him it will bite deeply into their cap payroll. The Kings have over $32 million invested in Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Dion Phaneuf. Assuming he gets a deal similar to Kopitar’s, they’ll have $42 million tied up in just six players. That will adversely affect efforts to transition toward younger, faster talent.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited Elliotte Friedman’s appearance Friday on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 discussing possible moves by the Anaheim Ducks. He doubts they’ll replace general manager Bob Murray but wondered if they’ll look at their coaching staff. They also have to think about their goaltending depth given starter John Gibson’s injury history.
Friedman also wondered if they might approach veteran winger Corey Perry about waiving his no-movement clause for a fresh start elsewhere. Asked by his hosts about Perry playing for the Calgary Flames, Friedman said they could be one of the places where it might work, especially if the Ducks absorbed part of Perry’s $8.6-million cap hit. He thinks Perry might benefit from playing alongside younger, faster players like Paul Stastny has with the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Perry’s willing to accept a trade (and so far that’s a big “if”), the Ducks will either have to pick up part of his cap hit or take back an expensive contract as part of the return. Even so, Perry could be a bit of a tough sell at this point in his career. His production has declined over the past two seasons. Given his age (32), that could dampen his trade value.