NHL Rumor Mill – May 31, 2018
Latest on Phil Kessel and Ilya Kovalchuk plus an update on the Montreal Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
SUGGESTED TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR KESSEL.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton takes note of recent speculation out of Pittsburgh suggesting the Penguins could listen to offers for winger Phil Kessel, whose relationship with head coach Mike Sullivan has reportedly soured.
Moving Kessel and his $6.8-million cap hit could also make financial sense for the Penguins. They could have around $9 million in cap space for next season, and while their notable restricted free agents (Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan, Dominik Simon and Jamie Oleksiak) won’t be expensive to re-sign, it will limit how much room they’ll have to bolster their roster for next season.
Kessel has an eight-team trade list, giving him a measure of control over where he could be dealt. Clinton feels a return of some draft picks or prospects could help restock the Penguins’ prospect cupboard. He suggests the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings as possible destinations.
Clinton thinks the Golden Knights have the cap space to take on Kessel. The Blues have $18 million in cap room and a deep prospect pool. The Isles, who have four picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft) could make sense if they re-sign John Tavares. The Hurricanes also have cap space and prospect depth. The Kings would likely have to part with Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson to make this work.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If, and it remains “If” at this point, the Penguins shop Kessel, his potential destinations will depend upon what clubs are currently on his preferred list and, perhaps, his willingness to expand that list.
The Golden Knights’ success would make them a good fit, but is he a good fit for them? General manager George McPhee pursued Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson at the trade deadline and could be more interested in revisiting that option. The Blues need offense but their preference is adding a scoring center.
I agree the Isles could be a good fit if they re-sign Tavares, but president of hockey operations Lou Lamariello might not be keen to add a player who has a reputation of clashing with coaches. I don’t think Kessel is interested in joining a perpetually rebuilding club like the Hurricanes, and I don’t see the Kings moving Toffoli or Pearson to acquire him.
LATEST ON KOVALCHUK
NHL.COM: cites TSN’s Darren Dreger reporting representatives for free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk is talking to NHL clubs about a possible return next season. It’s unknown what clubs he’s speaking with. Kovalchuk cannot officially sign a contract until July 1 but he can agree to one before then.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins as possible destinations for Kovalchuk. He also recommends keeping an eye on the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and Vegas Golden Knights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Isles president of hockey ops Lou Lamoriello has a good history with Kovalchuk. Convincing the Russian star to join his new club could help Lamoriello convince Tavares to re-sign. Cap Friendly indicates the Kings have just over $70 million invested in 20 players with all their core players under contract. If Kovalchuk agrees to a reasonable short-term deal he could be a fit there.
Larkin points out Kovalchuk and Stars winger Alexander Radulov are friends, which might help him readjust to the NHL. The Panthers also have the cap room ($65.9 million invested in 19 players) to sign him. They took a chance on Jaromir Jagr a few years ago and it worked out well, so maybe they make a pitch to Kovalchuk. The Bruins could use second-line scoring depth and Kovalchuk might be a good addition there.
Despite Kovalchuk’s ties to Hurricanes GM Don Waddell, I don’t see them as a destination. Larkin doesn’t buy the rumors linking Kovalchuk to the Rangers, as they’re committed to rebuilding with youth. However, they could use a veteran leader or two to take some of the burden off those youngsters. The Golden Knights are a possibility, but I agree with Larkin’s take that Kovalchuk might be a luxury for them.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
NHL.COM: Mike Zeisberger reports Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin won’t trade their first-round pick (third overall) in this year’s NHL Draft unless he’s blown away by a trade offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, unless someone pitches a first-line center in his playing prime under contract beyond next season, Bergevin’s not moving that pick.