NHL Rumor Mill – May 17, 2018
Latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Tavares, Max Pacioretty and Robby Fabbri plus updates on the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes in your NHL rumor mill.
EKMAN-LARSSON & COYOTES TALK EIGHT-YEAR EXTENSION
ARIZONA SPORTS: Craig Morgan reports sources claim the Arizona Coyotes are discussing an eight-year contract extension with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 26-year-old defenseman is eligible in July 2019 to become an unrestricted free agent, but he can sign an extension on July 1 of this year. “While other teams, particularly those in Canadian or large U.S. markets, may be able to offer him a higher AAV if he were to reach unrestricted free agency, the lower cost of living in Arizona could mitigate those differences,” writes Morgan.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This doesn’t surprise me. During the season, Ekman-Larsson expressed his willingness to re-sign with the Coyotes, who are keen to retain him. As per Cap Friendly, the annual average value of his current contract is $5.5 million, though in actual salary he’s making $6.5 million this season and $7 million for 2018-19.
Wouldn’t surprise me if he get something between $8-$9 million per season with the Coyotes. Looks like teams seeking a skilled top-two defenseman (Hello there, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs) will have to look elsewhere this summer.
UPDATES ON TAVARES, PACIORETTY AND FABBRI
FRS NETWORK HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussing some offseason speculation in his latest “31 Thoughts” podcast with Jeff Marek. The pair discussed the possibility of New York Islanders center John Tavares perhaps accepting a short-term contract with a contending club if he decides to test this summer’s free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Neither guy knows what Tavares’ intentions are regarding free agency this summer. They were simply kicking around the notion of a short-term deal. Anything’s possible, especially if Tavares is determined to join a potential Cup contender.
Regarding the St. Louis Blues, Friedman believes their depth in good young players gives general manager Doug Armstrong the flexibility to do some things this summer. He noted the Ottawa Senators had some interest this season in sidelined forward Robby Fabbri, though nothing came of it. Fabbri’s trade value would depend upon his health, but Friedman thinks some teams will be interested when he comes back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much of the Blues’ recent trade chatter usually brings up prospects such as Robert Thomas or Jordan Kyrou. But if Armstrong is confident in one or both of those kids cracking the roster full time next season, perhaps a young roster player such as Fabbri becomes a trade candidate.
Asked about Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, Friedman believes there will be attempts to trade him and there will be teams interested in the left winger. Pacioretty has a year left on his contract and the Canadiens aren’t expected to re-sign him. Friedman noted the Florida Panthers had interest, though the Canadiens sought center Vincent Trocheck “among other things”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman points out the Panthers weren’t willing to part with Trocheck. The fact the Canadiens apparently asked about the center indicates they want an established scoring center in return for Pacioretty.
LATEST ON THE HURRICANES
FRS NETWORK HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell’s appearance yesterday on Toronto’s SiriusXM NHL Network Radio discussing his club’s offseason plans. Regarding speculation concerning the futures of winger Jeff Skinner and defenseman Justin Faulk, Waddell admitted teams have made calls about those two and other players on his roster. He said his staff intends to look at every position on his team. While they want to make changes, Waddell said they want to make sensible moves.
Waddell said it looks like he’ll be keeping the second-overall selection in this year’s NHL Draft. He also admitted they have to make changes regarding their goaltending. They intend to continue working with Scott Darling to improve his conditioning and performance for next season. “We know we can’t bring the same two guys back,” adding if there’s a goalie out there that makes sense they’ll look at making that move.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also discussed the Hurricanes during his “31 Thoughts” podcast. He noted the belief that everyone except forward Sebastian Aho could be available, though he also feels promising Martin Necas won’t be moved. When asked if the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs might pursue defenseman Noah Hanifin if he became available, Friedman wondered, “Who wouldn’t be interested?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because the Hurricanes could be willing to listen to offers on everyone but Aho and Necas doesn’t mean they’re going to move Hanifin. The Canes need scoring punch, especially if they move Skinner this summer. It’ll likely cost the Bruins or Leafs a good young scorer to land one of their defensemen. Of Carolina’s blueliners, I believe Faulk is more likely to be dealt than the 21-year-old Hanifin, who still has plenty of upside.
Sounds to me like Cam Ward won’t be coming back. I think they’ll look at finding an experienced, affordable backup (Jonathan Bernier? Carter Hutton? Anton Khudobin?) who can push Darling next season.
OILERS “BIG GAME HUNTING” FOR A DEFENSEMAN.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited TSN’s Ryan Rishaug speculating the Edmonton Oilers could be “big-game hunting” for a defenseman this summer. He noted the Oilers first-round pick (10th overall) in this year’s draft could be in play. Rishaug engaged in “some spitballing”, suggesting Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and Buffalo’s Risto Ristolainen as trade options. He also mentioned Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson but doubts the Oilers will go in that direction.
Rishaug also brought up perhaps packaging that pick with defenseman Oscar Klefbom to pursue someone like Ristolainen. Staples feels that could be a high price to pay in any potential trade and the Oilers would have to be sure they’re getting a true No.1 defenseman in return. Staples wondered about perhaps pursuing Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, given the Jets’ coming salary-cap issues, or paying a lesser price to land Carolina’s Justin Faulk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone knows the Oilers desperately need a proven top-pairing defenseman. The problem, however, is finding one without overpaying. I doubt the Oilers can get in on Karlsson, as the cost of his new contract alone is far more than they could comfortably afford. Sounds like Ekman-Larsson’s re-signing with the Coyotes.
Ristolainen and Dumba have considerable potential but they haven’t established themselves yet as true No.1 d-men. Trouba apparently now wants to re-sign with the Jets, though if his asking price proves too expensive, perhaps he could become a trade option. Faulk seems a more reasonable trade target, but the recent decline in his performance is cause for concern.