NHL Rumor Mill – June 1, 2018
Latest on Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson and John Tavares in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Sonny Sachdeva is the latest to weigh in with trade destinations for Pittsburgh Penguins winger Phil Kessel, suggesting the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild as potential targets.
He notes the Flames have $12.5 million in cap space and proposes packaging defenseman T.J. Brodie with “a couple of enticing prospects”, making Kessel the legitimate top-line winger they need play alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. The Blue Jackets have $13.4 million in cap space and Sachdeva suggests packaging winger Cam Atkinson or center Brandon Dubinsky with prospects.
If the Golden Knights opt not to bring back William Karlsson, James Neal and David Perron, they would have enough cap space to take on Kessel. Sacheva suggests using Erik Haula as the centerpiece of a package offer. He also proposes the Devils package Marcus Johansson. He feels the Wild have plenty of possible trade candidates, such as Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter.
THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Josh Yohe addressed questions about a possible Kessel trade. While he considers such a move possible, he also feels it’s unlikely to happen this summer. He believes general manager Jim Rutherford could make a significant move or two but doesn’t expect him to mess very much with the roster core.
Yohe also noted recent speculation linking the Penguins to Arizona Coyotes winger Max Domi. If Kessel is going to be traded, Yohe feels Arizona could be a destination because of the winger’s relationship with former Penguins coach Rick Tocchet. He pointed out that Domi is a talented young player who could be a good fit with the Penguins, plus his father (former NHL enforcer Tie Domi) is a good friend of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux. Still, he admits he doesn’t know if that’s enough to trade for him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been a week since a report emerged claiming the Penguins were going to try and trade Kessel and he was willing to accept it. So far, neither side has commented on the speculation. As one Pittsburgh pundit noted, when the Kessel trade rumors popped up last summer, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford quickly smacked them down. Make what you will of his current silence.
Could Kessel be traded? Sure. Will he? That remains to be seen. He’s carrying a $6.8-million cap hit through 2021-22 and a modified no-trade clause in which he approves eight potential trade destinations. Those factors alone make him difficult, though not impossible, to move.
As for Sachdeva’s suggested trade destinations, I think the Penguins would want Dougie Hamilton, not Brodie, as part of the return for Kessel. That’s likely a deal breaker for the Flames, assuming Kessel will accept a trade to the Stampede City. The Blue Jackets need scoring punch at center, not on right wing, so I don’t see Kessel as a fit in Columbus.
I don’t consider Johansson as enough to entice the Penguins into sending Kessel to the Devils. The Golden Knights could part ways with Neal and Perron, but they’re definitely re-signing Karlsson. Besides, if GM George McPhee revisits his interest in Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, he won’t have sufficient assets to pursue Kessel.
The Wild, however, could be an intriguing possibility. They’re under new management and could shake things up. Kessel might interest them, though his hefty cap hit means they’ll have to free up considerable cap space to take him on.
Speaking of Domi for Kessel, Yohe makes a good point about the winger’s relationship with Tocchet, but would Kessel want to join a perpetually rebuilding team? He’s got two Cup rings and could prefer joining another championship contender.
THE ATHLETIC: In his latest mailbag segment, Joe Smith addressed recent trade speculation regarding Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson. While Johnson surfaced in trade rumors over the past two years, he was considered among the Lightning’s core players. Noting the center’s no-trade clause kicks in on July 1, Smith feels the Lightning have a narrow window to operate if they have any interest in moving him.
While Johnson’s completing the first season of a six-year deal, moving him would free up $5 million of annual cap space that could be invested in re-signing players such as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrej Vasilevskiy. Given the Lightning’s depth at center, they could afford to use Johnson as a trade chip to bolster their depth elsewhere. Smith suggests offering him to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Justin Faulk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what the Lightning do this summer. Yzerman could opt to make one or two minor tweaks in hopes of another run for the Stanley Cup with largely the same roster next season. Still, the Bolts could stand to get younger and faster on the blueline. Johnson could perhaps fetch that type of player in return.
TAVARES TO CHICAGO?
Friedman on the Chicago Blackhawks: “They’re not going to tolerate being that bad again, they’re going to try something. I think they’ll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they’ll ask, is there anyway we can get him here?”
— NHL Prospects Watcher (@Prospects_Watch) May 30, 2018
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $68 million tied up in 17 players for next season. Unless they can shed over $11 million in cap space, as that’s what Tavares is likely to command on the open market, I don’t see how the Blackhawks can afford him.