NHL Rumor Mill – June 28, 2018
Updates on John Tavares, Ryan O’Reilly, Artemi Panarin and more in your NHL rumor mill.
THE TAVARES WATCH
SPORTSNET: New York Islanders center John Tavares has completed his free-agent interview process. He don’t intend to meet with any more clubs after holding interviews earlier this week with the Islanders, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun expects Tavares will take some time to absorb all the information from those interviews. He speculates a decision could come as early as Saturday. The UFA market opens at noon ET on Sunday, July 1.
Bob McKenzie feels the Tavares situation is complicating things for Toronto Maple Leafs free-agent left wing James van Riemsdyk. Several clubs thought to have interest in van Riemsdyk are also in the Tavares sweepstakes.
NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross reports Tavares’ decision will have a trickle-down effect throughout the league. Unsuccessful bidders for his services could be forced to look elsewhere via free agency or trades. Once Tavares makes his decision. the stock of pending UFA centers such as Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny and Toronto’s Tyler Bozak should rise.
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple examines the Islanders’ options if Tavares decides to sign elsewhere. With 13 players under contract and over $32 million in cap space, they could target free agents such as Stastny or Bozak, or pursue a trade for a center like Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly.
BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont wonders if the Bruins could move David Krejci and/or David Backes to clear cap space if they win the Tavares sweepstakes. Krejci has three seasons left on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $7.25-million and a no-movement clause. Backes also has three years remaining ($6 million cap hit) and no-movement protection. Their clauses changes next summer to modified no-trades.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And now we wait, thankfully for not very long. Media consensus has Tavares re-signing with the Islanders but he could surprise us by opting to move on. If he does, I think he’d join the Sharks or Lightning as they appear the best options for him to win a Stanley Cup in the near future. Can’t rule out the hometown pull of Toronto. Once he makes up his mind, we can probably expect more activity in the trade market.
LATEST ON O’REILLY AND PANARIN
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues remain interested in Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly. What could give the Canadiens the edge is they’re willing to acquire him before July 1, meaning they would have to pay his $7.5 million signing bonus for 2018-19. LeBrun said he’s heard the asking price is “a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a very good prospect.”
FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Darren Dreger telling Buffalo’s WGR 550 yesterday that the asking price for O’Reilly could increase beyond July 1 if the Sabres end up paying that signing bonus. He also said there’s a belief the Carolina Hurricanes could be interested.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen intends to meet with winger Artemi Panarin in Europe next month, not to beg the winger to re-sign but to plot out a strategy for dealing with next season (possibly his last in Columbus) with minimal distractions.
“This would seem to suggest that Kekalainen is not expecting to trade Panarin this summer, but rather let him play into the final year of his current deal, which pays him $6 million per season,” said Portzline, who adds that could change if Kekalainen gets an acceptable offer. So far, all he’s received are offers including draft picks and top prospects, “not players who would help buffer the loss of Panarin’s offense from the lineup.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The sooner Tavares reaches his decision, the sooner perhaps O’Reilly’s situation is sorted out, which could also come as soon as Saturday.Given the Canadiens’ dire need for quality centers, I think Bergevin will be willing to meet that asking price of a first, a second and a prospect for O’Reilly.
As for Panarin, he could still sign with the Blue Jackets. There’s some speculation that re-signing his buddy, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, could affect Panarin’s decision. There was also talk he wanted to move to a bigger market to help his girlfriend’s modeling career, but his agent said she hasn’t modeled in three years and has no plans to resume that career.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS, CANUCKS AND DEVILS
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are targeting more experienced goaltenders for their backup spot. “The Blackhawks have at least reached out to unrestricted free agents Jonathan Bernier, Carter Hutton and Cam Ward, according to a source.”
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes Chicago is the likely destination for Ward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Powers notes, even if Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford is healthy and ready to go next season, they prefer having a more seasoned netminder as his backup. Ward could be the best option on a reasonable one- or two-year deal.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports the Vancouver Canucks reached out to Toronto’s Tyler Bozak and Boston’s Riley Nash during the free-agent interview period. They could also have “some level of interest” in Carolina’s Derek Ryan or Washington’s Jay Beagle. The trickle-down effect of UFA stars John Tavares and Paul Stastny could push up the cost of signing one of those aforementioned centers.
NJ.COM: Chris Ryan wonders if former Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik might become a free-agent target for the New Jersey Devils.