NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2018
Latest on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins plus updates on Joe Thornton and Nail Yakupov in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?
ESPN.COM: In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff elimination by the Washington Capitals, Emily Kaplan considers bolstering their blueline depth to be their offseason priority. With the salary cap going up, she feels they have enough space to add a reliable second- or third-pairing defenseman, perhaps by signing a middle-tier free agent. She speculates little-used defenseman Matt Hunwick could become a buyout candidate.
Kaplan also notes it’s reasonable to assume restricted free agents Riley Sheahan, Dominik Simon, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust and Jamie Oleksiak will be re-signed “if the money is fair.” Their most notable UFA is Carter Rowney. The Penguins lack a first- and fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. Kaplan suggests perhaps dangling “some of their NHL-ready or almost-NHL-ready talent as trade bait”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins won’t have to do much tweaking for next season. They’ll remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Still, they should do something to improve their blueline, especially considering the high number of odd-man rushes they gave up this season.
Cap Friendly indicates they have over $70 million invested in 17 players. Should the cap reach $80 million they might have sufficient room to re-sign their free-agents but not enough to bring in a mid-tier defenseman without shedding some salary first. Buying out Hunwick would free up an additional $1.7 million next season.
LATEST ON THE BRUINS
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa believes the Boston Bruins’ offseason priority is addressing their left-side defense and it could prove costly to fill. He suggested shopping defenseman Torey Krug to a team that could use his puck-moving skills for a left-shot blueliner who could better serve the Bruins’ defensive needs. He noted the Edmonton Oilers have Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse but the Bruins might have to package Krug with additional assets to land either guy.
Shinzawa also suggests the Bruins re-sign backup Anton Khudobin, who’s due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen could be in the mix to fill the second-line right-wing role as UFA Rick Nash won’t be back. They could also use a third-line center and perhaps a third-line right wing if David Backes isn’t up to the role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $65 million committed to 17 players and all their core players under contract next season, the Bruins have sufficient cap space to re-sign their remaining free agents and have sufficient space to pursue a left-side defenseman via free agency or trade.
Free-agent options could include Columbus’ Jack Johnson, Dallas’ Dan Hamhuis, New Jersey’s John Moore and the New York Islanders’ Calvin de Haan. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could instead decide to go the trade route.
Moving Krug would certainly be a bold move. While the Oilers could use an offensive rearguard with his skills, I’m not sure if there’s a deal to be had between the two clubs. For that matter, we don’t know if Bruins GM Don Sweeney would even consider trading Krug.
UPDATES ON THORNTON AND YAKUPOV
THE MERCURY NEWS: Paul Gackle wonders if this season was center Joe Thornton’s last with the San Jose Sharks. He noted the Sharks played well during Thornton’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. He believes GM Doug Wilson can retain Thornton without compromising the the strides the roster made in the veteran’s absence, provided the latter is willing to accept a reduced role, perhaps dropping him to the third line.
Complicating things could be other possible offseason moves, such as perhaps pursuing Islanders center John Tavares via free agency, possibly re-signing pending UFA Evander Kane and re-upping RFAs such as Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: How much Thornton wants to re-sign with the Sharks will also be a factor. He could accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal but it’ll have to be for much less than his $8 million cap hit for this season.
TSN: cites a report from BSN Denver’s Adrian Dater asking agent Igor Larionov if Colorado Avalanche winger Nail Yakupov if he was heading back to the KHL. “He’s a grown man, and he will decide what’s best for him,” Yakupov’s agent, Igor Larionov, told Dater.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yakupov is a restricted free agent and unlikely to get a qualifying offer from the Avalanche. Having flamed out with the Avs and the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, it’s doubtful he’ll get a contract offer from another NHL club.