NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2018
Updates on John Tavares, Paul Stastny, Jack Johnson and more in your NHL rumor mill.
THE TAVARES WATCH
NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins made their pitches yesterday to New York Islanders center and pending free agent John Tavares at his agent’s office in Los Angeles. The Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs made their presentations to Tavares on Monday and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars will meet with him today. It’s possible other teams could also get an opportunity to talk to him. Tavares is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at noon ET on July 1.
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith lists the ways the Lightning could squeeze Tavares under their salary-cap ceiling if he agrees to sign with them. Trading Tyler Johnson or the recently re-signed J.T. Miller or buying out or trading Ryan Callahan next summer are three of his proposed options.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports Tavares’ decision could affect the Jets’ plans to re-sign center Paul Stastny. The two sides have mutual interest in working toward a new contract, but the Jets have several notable restricted free agents (including Connor Hellebuyck and Jacob Trouba) to re-sign. As a result, they might be unable to afford Stastny if teams that lose out in the bidding for Tavares look toward the Jets center as an alternative.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has acknowledged he’ll have to make some adjustments if his bid for Tavares proves successful. Someone will have to be moved in a cost-cutting deal.
As for the Jets and Stastny, I believe it was Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman who suggested they could free up cap space if they can find a taker for backup goaltender Steve Mason and his $4.1-million cap hit. Easier said than done, perhaps, but it could be possible. There are several clubs seeking goaltending depth this summer, including the Islanders. that have the cap room to take on Mason’s contract.
TSN: The Montreal Canadiens are among several teams reportedly with interest in Jets center Paul Stastny.
JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: cites a report by TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggesting we shouldn’t be surprised if Tomas Plekanec returns to the Habs this summer. The Canadiens traded Plekanec at the trade deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Canadiens’ need for depth at center it’s not surprising they’re among the suitors for Stastny and considering bringing back Plekanec. Forget about them becoming a late suitor for John Tavares, as he’s already informed them he’s not interested in coming to Montreal.
PENGUINS INTERESTED IN JOHNSON
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports a source claiming there’s mutual interest between the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets pending UFA defenseman Jack Johnson. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has apparently been lobbying for his club to pursue his old friend. GM Jim Rutherford has acknowledged his intention to make at least one move to give himself more salary-cap flexibility.
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Yohe notes the Penguins’ re-signing of Bryan Rust yesterday to a four-year, $14-million contract leaves them with just over $4 million in salary-cap space. He expects Rutherford will likely re-sign center Riley Sheahan and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. He also wants to add another forward and defenseman.
Yohe lists winger Conor Sheary ($3 million annually), defenseman Matt Hunwick ($2.25 million), winger Carl Hagelin ($4 million) and center Derick Brassard ($5 million cap hit, $3.5 million in actual salary) as potential trade candidates. He considers trading winger Phil Kessel or defenseman Kris Letang “quite unlikely to happen at this time”, as Rutherford “pointedly shot down such ideas during his sit-down with reporters in his office on Monday.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Rutherford intends to sign Johnson he’ll definitely have to dump some salary. Of those trade candidates, Brassard would likely attract the most interest. There’s a market for quality centers and interest in Brassard could increase once Tavares and Stastny are off the UFA market. Sheary’s youth and Hagelin’s speed could make them enticing trade options.
**UPDATE** The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick to the Buffalo Sabres for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That move clears over $5.2 million from the Penguins salary-cap payroll, giving them over $69 million invested in 17 players. Looks like Rutherford is setting up to make a significant acquisition soon.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports the Vancouver Canucks have reached out to the agent of Boston Bruins pending free-agent center Riley Nash, who believes the Canucks could be poised for a turnaround in their fortunes in the near future.
SPORTSNET’s Rick Dhaliwal reports the Canucks are among four-five teams with interest in Los Angeles Kings UFA winger Tobias Rieder.
LATEST ON LEHNER AND MAROON
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports Buffalo Sabres UFA goaltender Robin Lehner made an in-person visit to Detroit yesterday to meet with Red Wings management and coaches. The Wings are seeking to fill their backup goaltender position, which could be an appealing destination as starter Jimmy Howard is oft-injured and entering the final season of his contract. The Wings have also spoken with former Wings forwards Valtteri Filppula and Thomas Vanek.
We can confirm that Blues are talking to St. Louisan Pat Maroon, a UFA from Oakville High who finished up last season playing for the New Jersey Devils.
— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) June 26, 2018