NHL Rumor Mill – June 2, 2018
Latest on Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, John Tavares, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Carlson and more in your NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE KESSEL TRADE SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford poured some cold water on the recent trade speculation regarding Penguins winger Phil Kessel, calling it something that had been blown out of proportion. “I don’t know where this story started. It’s unfortunate,” said Rutherford. He downplayed talk of Kessel being unhappy over not playing as often this season with Evgeni Malkin, claiming it’s inaccurate to suggest that it’s an issue with the team.
“I don’t feel that we have to trade Phil Kessel,” said Rutherford, who also dismissed the notion that any one player was solely to blame for the Penguins inability to win a third straight Stanley Cup. LeBrun believes Rutherford isn’t aiming to move Kessel but he can’t prevent teams (such as the Los Angeles Kings) from making inquiries.
TSN: During the latest “Insider Trading” segment, LeBrun’s colleague Bob McKenzie said speculation of the Penguins trading Phil Kessel has taken on a life of it own in recent days. McKenzie feels a trade is possible but not guaranteed. They’ll listen on Kessel for an offer they like but it’s not a foregone conclusion he’ll be traded.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was wondering how long it would take Rutherford to address the recent Kessel speculation. I concur with LeBrun and McKenzie that Kessel could be moved for the right offer but it’s not a certainty he’ll get traded. It could take a package offer involving a good, affordable young player as the centerpiece of the deal to pry him away from the Penguins.
There’s been some speculation suggesting the Arizona Coyotes should offer up forward Max Domi and the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft for Kessel. Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports considers that rumor “laughable,” claiming the Coyotes won’t part with that pick unless they get a “ridiculous” offer.
I don’t doubt there are teams making inquiries about Kessel, but I’m not sure the Kings could swing it. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $70 million invested in 20 players for next season with all their key players under contract. Should the cap reach $80 million for next season, the Kings would have sufficient cap space to take on Kessel’s $6.8-million cap hit and flesh out the rest of their roster with affordable signings, but they would obviously have to move a salaried player in the deal to make it work.
Such a move could cost them a young forward such as Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson. With over $39 million tied up in six players (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick), taking on another high-salaried star might not be the wisest course of action.
COULD CANADIENS RE-SIGN PACIORETTY?
TSN: Trade speculation has dogged Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty since before this year’s trade deadline, but Darren Dreger reports there has been preliminary discussions between Pacioretty agent, Pat Brisson, and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin regarding a possible contract extension. Pacioretty is eligible next July to become an unrestricted free agent. Dreger isn’t saying a deal will get done but they’re at least consider it.
Pierre LeBrun chimes in saying there could be mutual interest of a reunion between the Montreal Canadiens and former Habs center Tomas Plekanec.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Prior to Dreger’s report, Chris Nichols cited Elliotte Friedman telling Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 that he still believes Pacioretty could be traded this summer. Friedman thinks Pacioretty would be willing to go to a club like the Florida Panthers but it would have to be for the right deal. He thinks the Canadiens’ asking price before the trade deadline involved center Vincent Trocheck, which the Panthers didn’t want to do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out here. Pacioretty was quite adamant during his season-ending interview of his preference to stay in Montreal. These preliminary discussions could lay the groundwork for a new deal, though his asking price could also set the stage for his departure. Bergevin may have already explored the trade market on Pacioretty, didn’t find any suitable offers and could instead attempt to retain his captain.
UPDATES ON TAVARES, EKMAN-LARSSON, CARLSON AND ELLIS
TSN: Darren Dreger reports New York Islanders president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello and Pat Brisson, the agent for Islanders captain John Tavares, have been in “basically daily communication”. It’s believed the Isles made an eight-year offer. There’s also speculation perhaps the Isles could be a destination for winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who played for Lamoriello when he was GM of the New Jersey Devils, provided Tavares can be re-signed. It’s believed Kovalchuk wants a two- or three-year deal at “$6-plus million”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s easy to scoff at the notion of Kovalchuk getting that kind of deal, but with the salary cap expected to hit around $80 million this summer, I think there will be a few teams willing to pay him that much.
Bob McKenzie reports Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is reportedly sitting on an eight-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $8.25 million. If he doesn’t want to accept that, McKenzie believes the Coyotes will review their options, including going down the trade route. Ekman-Larsson is due to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Coyotes aren’t willing to pay more for Ekman-Larsson, other clubs are certainly be willing to do so. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two sides get a deal done in the coming weeks. Ekman-Larsson has said he’d keen to stay in Arizona and the Coyotes certainly want to keep him.
Pierre LeBrun suggested the Vegas Golden Knights could get into the bidding for Washington Capitals’ pending UFA defenseman John Carlson. LeBrun stressed Carlson’s priority is to re-sign with the Capitals, but he might price himself out of Washington with a rumored eight-year, $8-million ask.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 million tied up in 19 players for next season and Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle, Michal Kempny and Philipp Grubauer up for new contracts this summer, paying $8-million annually for Carlson will take a big bite out of their remaining cap space. A buyout of Brooks Orpik’s contract would free up an additional $3 million to put toward these signings.
LeBrun also reports the Nashville Predators have made re-signing defenseman Ryan Ellis their top priority this offseason. Like Ekman-Larsson, he’s due to become a UFA next July. A big raise is coming for Ellis.
LATEST ON THE RED WINGS
NHL.COM: Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland recently said he’s open to trading his first-round selection (sixth overall) in this year’s NHL Draft. The Wings also hold the 30th or 31st overall pick acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights as part of the Tomas Tatar trade. The Wings are looking for a center or a defenseman, They could also use the pick they got from the Golden Knights and one of their two second-round picks (33rd and 36th overall) as trade bait to perhaps move up in the draft order. Holland also reportedly met with the agents for pending free agents Mike Green, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou during the recent draft combine in Buffalo.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James recently answered some questions from Red Wings fans. She suggested forward Gustav Nyquist could become a trade candidate by next season’s trade deadline. He will be in the final year of his contract and is eligible for UFA status next summer.