NHL Rumor Mill – April 23, 2018
Latest on the Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE AND FLYERS?
THE ATHLETIC: In the wake of the Colorado Avalanche’s opening-round elimination by the Nashville Predators, Scott Burnside believes it’s incumbent on Avs general manager Joe Sakic to add pieces to a roster that overcame a horrific performance in 2016-17 to reach the playoffs this season. They must improve their defense, their depth at center, add secondary scoring and assess the health of their goaltenders.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan suggests the Avalanche improve their scoring depth. She recommends Sakic consider adding a veteran scorer via free agency. She also proposed re-signing backup Jonathan Bernier or add another veteran backup capable of replacing starter Semyon Varlamov if his health issues return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic did a fine job silencing his doubters (myself included) this year, especially with the return he got in the Matt Duchene trade last November. Cap Friendly indicates the Avs have over $49.6 million invested in 18 players for next season, with Bernier their notable unrestricted free agent and Matt Nieto, Nail Yakupov, Patrik Nemeth and Duncan Siemens their noteworthy restricted free agents.
Bernier could be re-signed as he did well filling in for the oft-injured Varlamov. I doubt Yakupov will be back and re-signing Nieto, Nemeth and Siemens shouldn’t take too big a bite out of their cap payroll. Depending upon how much ownership is willing to spend, the Avs could have sufficient cap space to become a player in this summer’s UFA market. Sakic could also consider targeting clubs looking to shed salary via trade.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi acknowledges the Philadelphia Flyers’ improvement this season, but points out their opening-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins exposed their weak goaltending and shoddy defense. Noting GM Ron Hextall has a significant amount of salary-cap space this summer, he speculates Hextall might try to add another veteran goaltender, another veteran defenseman and perhaps a third-line center.
Carchidi also wouldn’t be surprised if pending UFAs Val Filppula, Matt Read, Brandon Manning and Johnny Oduya aren’t re-signed and doubts restricted free agent goalie Petr Mrazek gets a qualifying offer. Carchidi think the final season of Jori Lehtera’s contract could be bought out.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan also believes the Flyers must address their long-standing problems in goal. With promising Carter Hart in need of AHL seasoning, she speculates Hextall might need to turn to a veteran goalie as a bridge until Hart is ready.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Carchidi’s take. As for cap space, they have over $59.5 million invested in 19 players so there’s lots of room to bring in one or two veteran players at reasonable prices to bolster their depth. Addressing the goaltending, of course, will be the most difficult. There really isn’t a lot of quality depth in this summer’s UFA market. There’s been some talk suggesting the Buffalo Sabres might make Robin Lehner available in the trade market but there’s no guarantee he’d be a significant improvement.
LATEST ON THE DEVILS
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Abbey Mastracco wonders if the New Jersey Devils might pursue Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson via free agency this summer or Ottawa Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson via trade. She observes the Devils have the salary-cap space to make a marquee move and also pointed out Karlsson was linked to the Devils near the February trade deadline.
Mastracco also thinks the Devils could attempt to retain pending UFA winger Patrick Maroon but doubts Michael Grabner will be back. While notable forwards such as the New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk and San Jose’s Evander Kane are intriguing names in the UFA market, David Perron could also be a smart addition. Mastracco also wonders if they might trade goaltender Keith Kinkaid for some scoring or a young two-way defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $55 million committed to 17 players, the Devils have sufficient cap space to re-sign their key players and perhaps add a scorer or a defenseman. Of course, it’ll depend upon how much ownership is willing to invest in the roster.
Tavares,Carlson, van Riemsdyk and Kane would be very expensive additions and New Jersey might not be on their list of potential destinations. Assuming Karlsson would accept a trade to the Devils, the Senators’ asking price and the cost of re-signing him would likely be too expensive. As Mastracco observed, Perron could be a good addition.
GM Ray Shero has shown a recent willingness to swing significant trades, swapping Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall in 2016 and Adam Henrique for Sami Vatanen last fall. I expect he’ll be busy via the trade market this summer. Considering Schneider’s inconsistent play this season, I expect Shero will retain Kinkaid for the time being.
PROPOSED FREE AGENT, TRADE & OFFER SHEET TARGETS FOR THE CANADIENS
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels recently examined how Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could address his club’s depth at center this summer. Noting the Canadiens could have over $20 million in salary-cap space this summer, possible UFA targets could include John Tavares or Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny. Depth options could include Boston’s Riley Nash, Toronto’s Tyler Bozak or Tomas Plekanec, San Jose’s Joe Thornton, Carolina’s Derek Ryan, Philadelphia’s Valtteri Filppula or St. Louis’ Kyle Brodziak.
Trade options could include Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom (if the Capitals fall short again in the playoffs) or Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Engels also proposed the RFA offer-sheet route, listing San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, Tampa Bay’s J.T. Miller, Carolina’s Elias Lindholm, Arizona’s Max Domi, Vegas’ William Karlsson, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin and Toronto’s William Nylander as potential targets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I remain skeptical over Montreal’s chances of signing Tavares. I concur with Engels’ view of Stastny as a serviceable short-term option as a No. 2 center. It wouldn’t be surprising if Bergevin explores the possibility of acquiring O’Reilly, though the asking price will be expensive. The Sabres would want a considerable return, especially after getting only a second-round pick for Evander Kane at the trade deadline.
If Backstrom becomes available you can bet Bergevin would be interested, but of course that depends on the 30-year-old center accepting a trade to Montreal. Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli recently said Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t going anywhere this summer and I believe him.
Engels acknowledged offer sheets are a rarely used tactic that seldom succeeds. Even if Bergevin is desperate enough to go that route I doubt he’ll be able to pry away any of those players on Engels’ list.