NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2018
Some early Washington Capitals and Golden Knights speculation plus the latest on Milan Lucic in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE CAPITALS AND GOLDEN KNIGHTS?
Kaplan believes the Capitals priorities are resolving their coaching situation, re-signing defenseman John Carlson and clearing some cap space to accommodate re-signing Carlson, winger Tom Wilson and perhaps Devante Smith-Pelly and Michal Kempny. She suggests perhaps buying out defenseman Brooks Orpik and consider trading Andre Burakovsky. She also proposes selling high on backup Philipp Grubauer for future assets.
Wyshynski feels the Golden Knights should use their $26 million in salary-cap space to perhaps pursue Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson via trade or Washington’s John Carlson or the New York Islanders’ John Tavares via free agency. They’ll also have to make tough decisions on pending UFAs James Neal, David Perron and fan favorite Ryan Reaves. He also wonders if they’ll draw upon their deep pool of draft picks for trade bait this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The coaching situation could be resolved quickly, as it appears Capitals management is keen to bring back head coach Barry Trotz. The other issues could be tougher to address. Cap Friendly indicates the Capitals have over $63 million invested in 16 players. Re-signing Carlson, Wilson, Kempny and Smith-Pelly could push that total to around $78 million, which might not leave much wiggle room for other moves if the cap ceiling reaches $80 million.
GM Brian MacLellan could wait to find out what the cap ceiling will be for next season before signing those free agents. There’s talk of rival clubs with interest in Grubauer, who’ll have to move on if he hopes to become an NHL starter. Burakovsky’s struggled with injuries and inconsistency, which could make him expendable if they need to free up cap space.
As for the Golden Knights, GM George McPhee isn’t afraid to make bold moves. If owner Bill Foley is willing to spend to the cap ceiling, McPhee would have the green light to pursue a true franchise player. If so, he could use some of those draft picks as trade bait.
Given Neal’s strong performance in the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they attempt to re-sign him as long as his asking price is reasonable. They could balk if he seeks over $6 million annually. Perron would be more affordable but they might part ways with him now. If they want to keep Reaves, he’d be an affordable re-signing.
OILERS SHOPPING LUCIC?
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited TSN’s Frank Seravalli telling “Lowdown with Lowetide’s” Allan Mitchell the Edmonton Oilers could be trying to trade left wing Milan Lucic. It’s Seravalli’s understanding the Oilers are talking to teams about Lucic and potentially taking back another salary, even if it means sweetening the pot by packaging the winger with a draft pick or another player. He acknowledged such a move will be difficult to move, in part because of Lucic’s no-movement clause.
Staples notes TSN’s Jason Gregor recently said Lucic might be willing to waive his NMC. “What would the Oilers have to give up to move Lucic? A second round pick? A top prospect? Eat a big chunk of his salary going forward?”, asks Staples.
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell suggests the Oilers have three choices with Lucic: “Push the big winger onto a feature (Draisaitl) line and hope for a turnaround, run Lucic on a third line that could have more success against softer competition, or trade the big man.” If the Oilers are willing to take on another team’s “regret” (bad contract), Mitchell wondered who that might be. “Is that player Bobby Ryan? Dion Phaneuf?” Ultimately, he feels the Oilers would be better off sticking with Lucic for another season in hopes he recovers some of his value.
FRS HOCKEY: Chris Nichols cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman telling Edmonton’s 630 CHED he’s looked into rumors of Lucic requesting a trade but was told that wasn’t the case. Friedman also said the frustration isn’t with Lucic the player but his contract. ” It’s a difficult contract to move, it’s buyout-proof, he hasn’t played well. I think all of that, it’s a huge obstacle in the way of any potential deal getting done.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A Lucic trade isn’t impossible but, as Staples, Mitchell and Friedman point out, it won’t be an easy deal to make. Lucic won’t just go anywhere, his $6 million annual cap hit becomes more burdensome if there’s a perception his best days are behind him, and rival clubs could seek a promising young player (Jesse Puljujarvi?) as part of the return. A contract buyout is also unpalatable for the Oilers right now.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports the Oilers have options if they decide to trade defenseman Oscar Klefbom. He wonders if GM Peter Chiarelli would look at another left-shot defenseman such as Boston’s Torey Krug or Buffalo’s right-shot blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen to balance their left-right shot defense. Matheson said neither player is being shopped but the general managers of their respective teams are listening to lots of calls. He also lists winger Zack Kassian as another trade possibility.
NBC SPORTS: Joe Haggerty noted a recent report out of Edmonton claiming the Oilers could move out ” a contract with term and getting a player who provides a different “ingredient” to the lineup.” He wondered if there’s a plausible scenario whereby there’s a swap of Klefbom for Krug.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Klefbom would be easier to move than Lucic, though if the Oilers can pull off moving the big winger they could retain the blueliner. Klefbom popped up several times this season in the rumor mill, but I don’t see the Oilers moving him unless they get a suitable replacement, either as part of the return in a Lucic deal or in another trade.
The Sabres might not be as enamored of Ristolainen as they were a year or two ago but, as Matheson points out, he’s also their best right-shot defenseman by a mile. With promising Rasmus Dahlin expected to be selected by the Sabres with the first overall selection in this year’s draft, perhaps the Sabres retain Ristolainen with visions of he and Dahlin forming a top defense pairing down the road.