NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2018

by | May 24, 2018 | Rumors | 50 comments

Latest on the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets in your NHL rumor mill.


ESPN.COM:  Greg Wyshynski believes the Tampa Bay Lightning’s window to win the Stanley Cup is open for just one more year. After that, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point will be restricted free agents while such notables as Yanni Gourde, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi will be unrestricted free agents.

Will Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman make any significant moves this summer? (Photo via NHL.com)

Wyshynski feels the Lightning must follow the league trend toward younger, faster and cheaper players. Replacing someone such as fourth-liner Chris Kunitz is the easy part but finding upgrades for Coburn and Girardi could be tougher. He suggests the answer could already be on the team with players such as Jake Dotchin or Slater Koekkoek.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning have over $68 million invested in 18 players for 2018-19 with all their core players under contract and Kunitz (UFA) and J.T. Miller (RFA) as their notable free agents. Assuming a cap ceiling of $80 million, they’ll have enough to re-sign Miller, find an affordable replacement for Kunitz, re-sign or replace depth free agents and still have perhaps enough room for an addition via this summer’s UFA market. 

General manager Steve Yzerman could keep his roster largely intact for one more run next season. I don’t believe he’ll shake up his core, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him tweaking the Lightning’s depth via trade or free agency this summer.


TRIBLIVE.COM: Tim Benz recently examined some recent speculation attempting to link the Pittsburgh Penguins to New York Islanders center John Tavares, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He dismissed the notion, noting the high cost of signing Tavares (between $10 million-$11 million) and the Penguins’ limited cap space. They would have to dump a lot of salary in cost-cutting deals without taking back or retaining any salary to make it work. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s also the little matter that Tavares would be relegated to centering the Penguins’ third line. Benz noted the Isles did briefly use Tavares on the wing this season, but that’s not his natural position. Anyway, I concur with his take on this subject. Too many obstacles for the Penguins to overcome.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Ron Cook blames the sour relationship between Penguins winger Phil Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan for torpedoing the club’s hopes for a third straight Stanley Cup championship. He feels Kessel deserves most of the blame, calling him a difficult player to coach. He felt the banged-up winger should’ve taken some time off to rest during the season instead of keeping his consecutive-games streak going.

Cook believes Kessel “probably will be back with the Penguins next season even though I expect Rutherford to seriously look into trading him.” He claims Rutherford “would have moved him for the right offer after the 2016-17 season but couldn’t find any takers because of Kessel’s sizable contract which runs through 2021-22 with an annual cap hit of $6.8 million.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sure, Kessel can be difficult to coach at times, and yes, he had a sub-par postseason. However, attempting to make him the scapegoat for the Penguins failure to win a third straight Cup is absurd. A lack of fleet-footed defensive depth and the physical toll of two consecutive championship seasons were the real factors.

Unless Rutherford intends to rebuild the roster this summer by shedding salary for draft picks and prospects, I believe he’ll keep his roster largely intact – and that include Kessel – for another run at the Cup next spring.


WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba doesn’t sound like someone who’ll seek a trade or preparing for another contract stalemate. He downplayed his previous contract talks, saying he’d like to stick around for the long term and hopes an agreement on his next deal can be reached in the near future.

Trouba talked about how much he’s enjoyed playing for the Jets this season, his belief they’re building something special and his desire to part of that going forward. His game has improved since his contentious negotiations two years ago, blossoming into a top-pairing defenseman alongside Josh Morrissey. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trouba’s previously contentious contract talks ensured his name occasionally popped up in the trade rumor mill over the past two years. However, I expect things will go smoothly this time around. He’s a key part of their improvement and he wants to stay. As long as his asking price is reasonable, he should be under contract well before training camp opens in September. 



  1. Bold (and stupid) statements by Ron Cook on the Penguins. Probably one of those people that thinks that Kessel was out of shape just because he was panting on the bench. Perhaps he didn’t see the comments by Rutherford that Kessel played all year with injuries. To me that is a team player that is doing everything to win. Whose to say that even if Kessel wanted to take games off to rest, the coach and GM would even let him? Players are paid millions to play hockey, not sit in the press box and “rest”. Crosby (82gms) and Malkin (78gms) both played almost full season so Kessel would be held to the same expectation.

    • Cook is soooo bad. 2nd worse sports writer in the burgh.

      • Not as bad as mark spector.

      • What is wrong with Mark Spector? Not the best in front of a camera between periods of Oiler games, give you that, but as a columnist it is hard to argue with most of what he writes.
        The guys is connected, respected and isn’t afraid to be tough on the Oil, and the have the nuts to walk right back into the room and face the coaches/players/managers after being critical. He stands by what he writes and a big supporter for hockey writers throughout the sport.
        I don’t always agree with his opinions, but you have to respect the job he does.

      • I wouldn’t know. Be a fun race!

    • Blaming Kessel is beyond ridiculous. The Penguins don’t win B2B without him they would have barely made the playoffs this year without him. It’s quite obvious that his teammates all love him and he is a fan favourite. There is zero chance he is traded until rebuild time. His cap hit is betond manageable for how much he produces. This is simply a flawed narrative. The whole team outside of Crosby and Guentzel fell apart against a pretty dirty Caps team. I’m not trying to make excuses but the Penguins were a very beat up team by the second round. Next year, with a healthy roster and a couple of small depth mover this summer, they should be not just a contender but a favourite to win again. They will be the deepest team in the league down the middle and have forward group overall. A bounce back year for Letang and Shultz and another year of growth for Dumoulin, Maatta and Oleksiak and suddenly you have a healthy team with depth all over, 2 good young goalies, and no real weaknesses. And anyone who doesn’t think Murray is already taking 1000 shots a day on the glove side should just keep underestimating him.

      • Sorry that should say have the best overall forward group.

        As much as I would love to see Kunitz back in a 4th line role the Penguins need to move a couple of forwards or risk losing them to waivers. Carter Rowney will be a New Jersey Devil because they seem to steal all of the Pens cast offs. Tom Kuhnhackle is also likely a goner although he is slightly better than a replacement level forward so I hope he finds a new home.

  2. Yzerman is not sentimental. The Bolts need some retooling. The team that won the Conference was not permitted to play in the finals. A light, fast, puck possession team will draw penalties and both score power play goals and gain momentum, and change the ice time mix for the opposition. An officialdom that doesn’t want to call fouls and instead “lets them play” favors a clutching, grabbing, physical counterattacking team over a puck possession team. Washington pushed the Lightning around for most of the series. The playoffs will be this way next year. I expect half a dozen roster moves to get bigger, faster, and nastier, so the smurfs can find some space. 2011 and 2018 game sevens were carbon copies. I expect a coaching change for the PK because you will likely have more next year. Coburn, Girardi, Sustr, Kunitz, and a couple of others approach their sell-by date, and a blockbuster of one of they very talented for equal talent differently packaged would not surprise me for a team with lots of Conf. finals and no cups. Being the highest scoring might be less of a goal than in the past. I actually think kucharov might be available for the right package, to allow four big contract defensemen in a remodel. The window is open,but there is some dry rot around the edges, and a remodel might be better now before the problems are obvious.

    • Richard is correct. The rules inexplicably change for the playoffs and especially in the late games of rounds. Game 7’s might as well be sudden death as the tea in the lead is going to be allowed do whatever it can to preserve the lead. Officials may not want to effect the outcome of the game by calling penalties but obviously not calling penalties effects the outcome of games. What makes you one of the best teams in the regular season doesn’t make you one of the best in the playoffs. Physical,guys that can score become more important until the league makes playoff officiating changes

      • I’m a lightning fan, but I’m surprised this one went to 7. Tampa was outmatched, out muscled grossly in this series.
        I stopped counting the dump and chase in the 1st period.

        Pretty odd that this team chose that style of play early on in game 7 considering they were outmatched trying to dig pucks out of corners. When I quit counting early on I think I was at 12-14 attempts, and maybe 2 times they maintained some sort of possession.

        Tampa needs to get a little bigger and a little more physical imo.

    • Tampa more then any team in the playoffs benefitted from poor officiating. Another classic example the cross check to Orpik numbers. The only team that can’t complain about officiating is Tampa.

      • Yup that was boarding. And yeah, that might have been a trip on the Stamkos goal a couple of games ago. Washington sure got screwed on a lot of bad calls. Good thing their PK was great,so Tampa couldn’t score in the last eight periods. It’s amazing you can play a clean game while being that physical.

      • Agree Caper, in the Boston series TB was the more physical team and were running guys all over the ice. Most of them clean, but plenty that would get called in the regular season.
        Playoff hockey has always been this way, and until proven otherwise expect it to continue.

      • @Richard llfeld, maybe you need to go watch the Boston series and the previous games between TB and Wash, no team benefitted more then Tampa but yes the officiating has been bad thru out the playoffs.

    • Tampa was leaning on Girardi and Coburn far too much. How far would they have gone without adding McDonagh and Miller? Miller for all his 4 bad decisions a game with the puck is still a rare size upfront for Tampa.

      Felt like I was watching the East Conf Finals when Tampa beat the Rangers

  3. Listening to Ron Cook (and Andrew Filliponi, as well) talk about hockey is painful. It hurts at least as much as someone stepping on your toes. They know nothing.

    Having said that, if Rutherford feels like doing something big, I could make a case for trading Phil now at his peak value.

    They have Sprong to fill his role and he will be misused if they still have Kessel and Hornqvist.

    If JR could move Kessel and Sheary to BUF for O’Reilly and the Sharks pick (which would allow them to trade Brassard for a D man) I have to think he’d consider it.

    • Given the age of the players and term left on the contract, I doubt Buffalo would give up a first round pick with O’Reilly to get Kessel. Centers are a premium position and O’Reilly is a very good 2nd line center that was productive on a horrible Buffalo team the last couple years. I also think Buffalo would want to get younger, not older, with an O’Reilly trade plus they would likely target a defenceman.

  4. “He suggests the answer could already be on the team with players such as Jake Dotchin or Slater Koekkoek.”

    I think a breakthrough by a very young but well schooled Cal Foote is likely. Erne is the best of the young power forwards. We’ve seen Cirelli can play, there may be an opening for Mitchell Stevens. The talent coming up is good, but experience has value so this may be done during the year in stages. Yzerman might try a configuration in the fist half before tweaking…he has enough assets to work with. Goalie is settled & quality

    • all good points

  5. Washington, Winnipeg and Vegas are proving physical hockey isn’t dead and I for one am grateful for that.

  6. Ron Cook is a joke. He also advocated trading Kessel after the first year of the Penguins back to back for the exact same reason “hard to coach”. Kessel certainly was a help for the repeat. Cook is just trash media – say something shocking with a player who was formerly a lighting rod of critisim to get noticed.

  7. Kessel is in great shape. If Guy Lafleur was able to play smoking cigarettes Kessel can continue to be the best cherry picking forward that never comes back he can be while eating hot dogs.

    • Kessel may be a handful but he is a stud and the PENGUINS BEST PLAYER throughout the regular season..period..playoffs no but he was banged up…

  8. I just want the NHL to be consistent & call the rules as written. Not an advocate of just letting them play. We have rules for a reason they shouldn’t change in the playoffs, OT, the last minute of the game, what have you.

    If the refs pick & choose when to call the rules that causes the inconsistencies that drive everyone insane nor is it fair & may well cost a team the game.

    NHL officiating is frustrating as the concept of standards is the fundamental problem. The rules need to be far more black & white where possible.

    • Striker, the problem with calling the rulebook is the game is way too fast and the officials miss so many calls and call so many misses all the time. I would prefer they put the whistle away in critical situations like they do. They will call something very violent or a call something that removes a clear scoring chance.

      I do not advocate changing the system as it is today in the playoffs.

      Both teams clearly know what they can and can’t get away with during those moments. They need to deal with it.

      • Call what you see. I get the game is fast, it’s crowded & visions are impaired, there is no perfect solution regardless letting penalties you see go at any time is wrong.

        I can’t for the life of me figure out why the NHL isn’t using the technology available to them. Have a few off ice officials that can communicate with the on ice. Not a video review just the ability to communicate.

        I’m more concerned that the right call is made. What they are doing today isn’t working, essentially everyone’s pissed off & confused as to what is & isn’t a penalty.

        For me it’s embarrassing & there has to be a better solution than what we are forced to endure every season & not just in the playoffs. The playoffs just magnify it as more people are watching & are far more vested.

    • NHL should take a page from the NBA. Star players get touched its a penalty. If you looked at Jordan free throws, the same with Steph, Labron all the stars. They sell the game not the 3rd and 4th liners. I watch McDavid get hacked, wacked and hooked 5 times a game and maybe 1 gets called. I dont care if the Lucic’s, and Maroon’s of the game dont draw the calls. but the Crosby’s, Malkins and McDavids should. They are what makes the game watchable. It sucks to see what happened to Gaudreau last season get hacked and miss a bunch of games and still no call. its easy to change. Like Striker said call the rulebook especially for the Stars.

      • I dislike the NBA for that very reason. Call the game fairly for all players. The rules should apply to everyone equally.

  9. The Bolts have lots of young depth in all areas. Let them play and they will be fine. I believe they will contend for the President’s trophy again net year.
    36 days and the JT speculation really heats up. I would bet my house it does not involve the Pens….dumb comment

    • Striker, if it takes 5 camera angles to get the call right, the game will be in ruin. I get we have issues with the officiating. It isn’t any different in any other sport. Football, IMO the slowest sport in the world has a multitude of officials on the field and they can’t get a holding or pass interference right. Granted, there is a challenge system for PI but I digress. I don’t want off ice officials involved while the game is in play.

      I don’t see any room for technology to make the game more ‘fair’ without ruining the game from an overall entertainment perspective. No thank you. JMO

  10. if pens didn’t have so much wing depth I would love kunitz to come back at a reasonable price… hell… if its real reasonable I take him over kuhnackel on the 4th anyday

    • Agreed 4th line decent price ill take Kunitz over Kuhnackl…ANYDAY

  11. Doug,
    Maybe I am missing something but Kessel has played in Pittsburgh for three seasons? Correct? How many Stanley Cups have they won in that time? Two! The whole team didn’t win this year and the whole team won it the previous two years before that. Kessel was a vital member of all three teams. The moment they lose everybody has to find one person to blame. He was also burned at the stake in Toronto for the failure of a TEAM! Anybody see the squabbling on the Penguins bench? Crosby, Hornqvist, Malkin, and Kessel too. Do you think maybe the other three on that list can be difficult as well?

    It’s no different than seeing Ovechkin finally reach the ultimate goal to play for the Stanley Cup. The Capitals are playing for the Cup, not just Ovechkin. This is a monkey off an entire organization’s back not just one player. Win or lose he will be all anyone in the media wants to talk about. It was nice to hear Paul Romanuk mention that regarding Ovechkin. I agree with him when he says that Ovechkin has been unfairly targeted with all of the blame for Washington’s misfortunes. Hockey is a TEAM game!

    • are you talking to yourself doug?

      • I’d rather talk to myself than you Chrisms

      • I think that’s most ppl’s thought on here Doug

      • Ouch. He set that one up great for you big bad. You must be good at t-ball

  12. Doug, Kessel was only burned in Toronto by the stupid media people that live to sell newspapers. Real hockey fans knew what they had in Kessel. They moved him simply because significant change was needed, it had nothing to with what he brought and his skill level. Great player for what he does – score goals and drives the offense on his given line.

    • Thanks for making my point for me Trekkie. Did you see that I mentioned the media?

      • Great. Another ornery person on this site.

  13. This may be a 1st here. I can’t think of any contributors that are caps fans, and no Vegas fans here either. Well it may be a little early for Vegas fans… and I don’t believe anyone here is from or lives in Vegas…

    All that said, who do you got?

  14. I’m an oilers fan . Never loved ovechkin , never hated him but thought something was missing . Not his production , certainly not in the playoffs being 3rd since 2008 in playoffs goals in almost 50 less games than Crosby / malkin . But something, the last two years , he has found whatever that was . Especially this year , I have a new found respect for him , his leadership , his will / want to win and I find myself rooting for him . I think he has earned it and the caps are playing great . So is Vegas , under appreciated and under dogs all year , will be a great series but I think it’s Ovechkins time . At least I hope so

    • Ya, would like to see Ovie get a cup. Has never gotten the respect he should. The greatest goal scorer of his era, many era’s actually when you consider the gap between him and the rest over the last decade.
      Great story about Ovie when he was here in Edmonton on a brutally cold winter evening and came across a homeless man without a proper coat. He took him to a clothing store and bought him proper winter clothing. The only reason it made it to the media is the person working at the store called them. Hard not to root for a guy like that.

      • I love Ovechkin’s raw passion for the game, he is a throw back.Tom Wilson’s post game 7 interview noting how he and other players were happy for OV says it all. I have to admit that I fell off the Caps band wagon after several years of underachieving in the playoffs but I now find myself pulling for OV, Trotz, Lenosis and the fans who are loyal, they are due.

      • I agree. Caps in 6! It’s just his time!
        Although, Vegas is a great story, contradictory of what I said a few weeks back about earning it.

  15. Kessel’s cap hit is high at 8 per, that being said he only has 4 years left on the deal, with a limited no trade clause. With the announcement that Rick Tocchet has moved on from Pens to take head coaching slot with Coyotes and comment from Kessel that Tocchet is the best assistant coach he’s ever played under could mean a move may be in the works. Coyotes need star power and offense, his salary could help them reach floor requirements in salary cap now that Datsyuk’s contract is expiring. May be Pens will target Ekman-Larsson? or picks and prospects. Never rule out a players willingness to move on from what appears to be a bad scene, especially if so many are saying that he’s not a good fit in the Pens dressing room.

    • 6.8 hit now. Oel not happening

    • Datysuk’s contract ran out with the 2017/18 year.

  16. Kessel had a sub par season? 34 goals and 58 assists for 92 points and 8th in league scoring is sub par?