NHL Rumor Mill – May 28, 2018
A look at this summer’s top 12 NHL UFAs plus updates on the Montreal Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
REVIEWING SPORTSNET’S TOP NHL UFAs OF 2018
SPORTSNET: New York Islanders center John Tavares, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson and Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk topped Luke Fox’s recently updated listing of this summer’s top-12 NHL unrestricted free agents.
Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, former NHL winger Ilya Kovalchuk, Vegas Golden Knights wingers James Neal and David Perron, Detroit Red Wings blueliner Mike Green, New Jersey Devils rearguard John Moore, Boston Bruins center Riley Nash and winger Rick Nash and Devils winger Michael Grabner round out the remainder of the list.
Fox thinks the Islanders’ recent hiring of Lou Lamoriello as their president of hockey operations “is a great sign for retaining Tavares,” noting their recent meeting and the center’s apparent happiness over the Lamoriello hire. His presence could also make them a potential destination for Kovalchuk.
Evander Kane’s new contract ($7 million annually for seven years) with the San Jose Sharks likely spells the end of van Riemsdyk’s tenure with the Maple Leafs. Stastny is open to re-signing with the Jets but he could prove too expensive to retain.
Health could be an issue for Green, who underwent cervical spine surgery in early-April and his estimated recovery time was two months. The Bruins haven’t told any of their pending UFAs that they won’t be returning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello’s hiring is no guarantee Tavares will remain with the Islanders but it should at least improve the odds. Carlson’s followed up a strong regular season with a solid postseason effort. I believe the Capitals will re-sign him, perhaps eight years at $8 million annually.
I think we’ve seen the last of van Riemsdyk in a Leafs jersey if he seeks a contract comparable to Kane’s. It’ll be interesting to see what effect reaching the Stanley Cup Final has upon Golden Knights GM George McPhee’s offseason roster plans. He could be tempted to keep Neal and Perron in the fold, even if doing so proves expensive.
The depth in talent in this year’s UFA market drops sharply beyond the top-eight. Rick Nash’s stock took a beating after yet another disappointing postseason performance. Riley Nash had a career year but rival clubs could be leery of signing him to a lucrative deal. Grabner really struggled with the Devils after joining them in a late-February trade from the Rangers and there was some speculation suggesting he could return to the Blueshirts.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples reports there’s ongoing buzz among some Montreal Canadiens follwerss expressing the hope their team might trade winger Max Pacioretty to the Edmonton Oilers “for either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse or the 10th overall pick, or some combination of all of them.”
Staples dismisses the notion of a Pacioretty-for-RNH swap, pointing out the strong chemistry Nugent-Hopkins has with center Connor McDavid after being moved to the wing on McDavid’s line. He also noted Pacioretty turns 30 this fall and is eligible for UFA status next summer, while Nurse and Klefbom are heading into their playing prime.
THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu suggests Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres or Elias Lindholm of the Carolina Hurricanes as two trade options to address the Canadiens’ need for depth at center.
While the Sabres biggest need is at defense, Basu indicates the Habs are stocked with second-round draft picks and young forwards they could package. They could also agree to pick up O’Reilly’s signing bonus and not ask the Sabres to retain any portion of O’Reilly’s $7.5-million annual cap hit.
The Hurricanes are reportedly open for business with only Sebastian Aho considered untouchable. Basu wonders if the Canes might be reluctant to re-sign Lindholm, a restricted free agent, to a long-term deal when he hasn’t shown significant improvement over the past two seasons. Still, he is a right-handed shot who scored the bulk of his goals at even strength, won 55 percent of his faceoffs last season and played on the Hurricanes’ special teams.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens need some long-overdue help at center, which explains the basis behind the notion of making a pitch for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. However, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t intend to move Nugent-Hopkins. He’s not going to Montreal this summer. Besides, a more realistic target Ryan O’Reilly.
The Sabres won’t just give O’Reilly away but I believe they’ll listen to reasonable offers. The Habs have the cap space to absorb his cap hit, which could give them an advantage over other potential suitors. As for Lindholm, he would be a good depth addition but he won’t address the Habs requirement for a decent scoring center.