NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2018
Updates on John Tavares, Milan Lucic, Ilya Kovalchuk, Mike Hoffman and John Carlson in your NHL rumor mill.
TAVARES TALKING TO ISLANDERS
TSN: The interview period when teams can interview pending unrestricted free agents begins on June 24. New York Islanders center John Tavares could take full advantage of that, but Darren Dreger reports Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson are currently focused on contract negotiations with the New York Islanders.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran makes the case for the Maple Leafs to pursue Tavares if he hits the open market on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the hundredth time, the Leafs don’t need Tavares. They already have a first-line center in Auston Matthews and a solid second-line center in Nazem Kadri. Blowing their brains outs on a big-money deal for Tavares will hamper their efforts to bring in a proven top-pairing defenseman, which is their biggest roster need right now. Unless they’re planning on trading Matthews for that blueliner, adding Tavares makes no sense.
CANADIENS NOT INTERESTED IN LUCIC.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports there are trade conversations going on between the Edmonton Oilers and other teams regarding Oilers left wing Milan Lucic. While a lot of people are trying to link Lucic to the Montreal Canadiens because they lost out in the bidding for his services two years ago, LeBrun said he’s told they are no longer interested in the big winger.
LeBrun added the impression around the league is Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli isn’t looking at a salary dump but instead prefers making a hockey trade. He speculates that could be because Lucic is suggesting a change of scenery but there’s no confirmation of this.
FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman recently telling Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 he hadn’t spoken with anyone from the Oilers about a Lucic trade, but the people he’s talked to suggest management is reasonably confident they can make it happen.
Friedman noted the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers had interest in Lucic when he was eligible to become a UFA two years ago, suggesting the Oilers should approach those clubs first to see if they’re still keen on him. He also speculated Lucic might prefer a trade to a non-Canadian club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lucic’s hefty contract and last season’s decline in his production likely dampened any interest the Canadiens may have had in him. Both factors will also affect the Oilers’ efforts to make a hockey deal. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the Oilers might either have to take back a toxic contract, pick up a big chunk of Lucic’s $6-million annual salary-cap hit or include a top prospect or high draft pick in the deal to make it work.
KOVALCHUK HOLDING UP THE TRADE MARKET?
LeBrun reports teams with interest in unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk are among some of the clubs the Carolina Hurricanes are talking to about a possible trade of Jeff Skinner. He thinks Kovalchuk must make a decision where he’ll sign in the next week or two before the Hurricanes can move Skinner. He believes the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are among the clubs with interest in both players.
SPORTSNET: Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney intends to speak with Kovalchuk’s agent. “He’s got things that he’s looking for and we’ll see where it goes.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed Kovalchuk’s preference is to join a Stanley Cup contender. The Bruins could certainly tick that box for him. Kovalchuk can reach an agreement in principle with a team before the UFA market officially opens at noon ET on July 1. However, he could wait until that date to make his decision. If so, the Hurricanes could be stuck waiting until then before they can find a suitable trade partner for Skinner.
HOFFMAN AND KARLSSON
On the heels of allegations regarding Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman’s fiancee cyberbullying Erik Karlsson’s wife, Dreger believes it’s now more difficult for the Senators to move him. He said there are GMs interested in Hoffman who are concerned about “the other stuff.” While it’s still believed the winger will be traded, Dreger feels it could adversely affect his trade value. He also reports the sense is Karlsson will remain patient and await the Senators’ contract extension offer on July 1.
OTTAWA SUN: Despite Hoffman’s personal baggage, Bruce Garrioch believes the Senators can still get a good return for him if they can find the right fit. Ideally, the club would prefer moving the winger before the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas next weekend. Garrioch doesn’t know what the Senators’ asking price is, but he speculates it could be “a first-round pick in 2019 plus a player that can help them right away or a high-end prospect. That guess is just based on past history and the fact that would make sense.”
Garrioch said it’s believed more that 10 teams expressed interest in Hoffman. He thinks they could include “The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres.” It’s believed the Blues may be the most aggressive. Garrioch also suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs could be looking to replace pending UFA winger James van Riemsdyk while the Montreal Canadiens have to make a decision on Max Pacioretty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dreger’s take appears to be the consensus among the pundits. I doubt the Senators would’ve landed a first-round pick for Hoffman before this week. It’s even less likely now. I don’t doubt there are teams in need of scoring punch with interest in Hoffman but his fiancee’s situation could scare some of them off, while others could use this story to their advantage in trade discussions.
LATEST ON CARLSON
LeBrun believes the new contract extension for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (eight years, $8.25-million annually) “sets the mark” for pending UFA blueliner John Carlson’s contract talks with the Washington Capitals. Given the Capitals’ limited salary-cap space, that could be a bit steep for them. LeBrun wonders if eight years at $8 million annually will do it. Washington GM Brian MacLellan is expected to meet with Carlson’s agent at the draft next week.
SPORTSNET: lists the Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars as possible destinations for Carlson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carlson won’t be taking a hometown discount. If that annual average value doesn’t begin at $8 million, he’ll likely be moving on. I believe the Capitals will re-sign him because they really don’t have much choice. He’s their top defenseman and his departure would blow a huge hole in the blueline that they won’t be able to fill via trade or free agency this summer.
If Carlson tests the open market, the Leafs, Golden Knights and Islanders could be the front-runners for his services. The Rangers and Sabres are rebuilding and Carlson could prefer joining a playoff contender. The Devils and Stars focus could be upon boosting their secondary scoring at forward. The Avs need depth throughout their roster but could look for affordable options.