NHL Rumor Mill – May 22, 2018
Updates on the New York Islanders, Vegas Golden Knights and Ilya Kovalchuk in your NHL rumor mill.
CHANGES COMING FOR ISLANDERS?
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis reports a source claims former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello will soon take over all hockey operations of the New York Islanders. It’s unclear how this will affect current GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight. Cyrgalis notes the Isles had to have received permission from the Leafs to hire Lamoriello.
Lamoriello’s first order of business is re-signing Islanders captain John Tavares, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He reportedly met last week with Tavares, which can be seen as a positive sign toward retaining the superstar.
Larry Brooks believes the anticipated hiring of Lamoriello will bring an end to years of the Islanders hoarding draft picks and selections. Brooks noted how he packaged picks and prospects to bring in “upper-echelon veterans” during his tenure as GM of the New Jersey Devils.
The Isles enter this year’s draft with two selections in the first and second rounds and are bursting with promising youth within their system. Brooks speculate Lamoriello could draw upon that to land a legitimate top right defenseman, someone such as Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, for example. Such a move could help convince Tavares to re-sign.
Brooks also expects Lamoriello could get into the bidding for free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, pursue an upper-echelon goaltender and add more toughness to the Isles lineup, perhaps by bringing back Matt Martin from the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Keep an eye on the Islanders in the coming weeks because things are going to get interesting. Cap Friendly indicates the Islanders have over $46 million invested in 13 players for 2018-19, giving them more than enough room to re-sign Tavares and bring in additional talent to bolster the lineup. Given the promising youth in the Isles system and their additional picks in the opening two rounds of this year’s draft, Lamoriello’s got a lot to work with if he intends to make bold moves this summer.
POTENTIAL DESTINATIONS FOR KOVALCHUK
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan recently looked at potential destinations for former New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who intends to return to the NHL next season. He listed the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers as possible landing spots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d include the Islanders in that mix, as Larry Brooks noted the connnection between Kovalchuk and incoming Isles executive Lou Lamoriello during their days with the Devils. The Rangers are believed to have spoken to the Kovalchuk camp and could be his top destination. The Panthers missed the production of Jonathan Marchessault last season and could consider Kovalchuk as a short-term replacement.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee has a willingness to make big moves, attempting to pry Erik Karlsson away from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. I wouldn’t rule out McPhee kicking the tires on Kovalchuk. The Stars could also look at the veteran winger, provided they can shed Jason Spezza’s contract this summer.
Improving the defense is the priority for the Maple Leafs and Oilers. I don’t think they’ll be interested in Kovalchuk.
LATEST GOLDEN KNIGHTS SPECULATION
FRS NETWORK HOCKEY: Chris Nichols recently cited Darren Dreger’s appearance last Tuesday on Toronto’s TSN 1050 discussing possible moves by the Vegas Golden Knights. Dreger believes they must be considered a top-10 team entering next season, though there’s going to be some changes based on what they do with their pending UFAs. However, he wonders if Vegas GM George McPhee attempts to sign John Tavares if the New York Islanders’ captain hits the open market, or takes another crack at acquiring Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knight’s stunning success in their inaugural campaign, their location in America’s Sun Belt and their cap space ($50.6 million invested in 19 players for 2018-19) should make them an attractive destination for UFAs or players being approached to waive their no-trade/no-movement clauses.
As Dreger points out, much will depend upon whether they re-sign pending UFAs such as James Neal and David Perron. McPhee could put an emphasis on keeping his roster intact as much as possible, which could take them out of the bidding for big-ticket players. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden Knights attempt to make a big move this summer.